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US DOE Awards More than $47M in Recovery Act Funding to Advance Smart Grid Development; New Smart Grid Report and Smart Grid Clearinghouse

The US Department of Energy delivered more than $47 million in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for eight projects to further smart grid demonstration projects in seven states. Energy Secretary Chu also announced $10.5 million in Recovery Act funding available for local governments to develop emergency preparedness plans for their electrical systems.

The $47 million in new Recovery Act awards will support existing projects that are advancing demonstration-scale smart grid technologies. This investment will add to the $17 million in funds the Department had awarded these projects in 2008 following a competitive award process.

“Smart grid supports EV and PHEV deployment through real-time pricing structures and bi-directional metering. Real-time pricing would enable customers to recharge vehicles during off-peak hours at reduced cost. Bi-directional metering would enable customers to purchase energy at off-peak hours and sell unused, stored energy back to the utility during peak periods at higher rates. These two elements could feasibly enhance the customer’s return on investment (ROI) for EV and PHEV technologies and accelerate market penetration. However, technical challenges with regard to battery performance due to charge and discharge cycles need further investigation and remediation.”
—Smart Grid System Report Annex A

As part of its efforts to inform Congress, energy stakeholders, and the public about smart grid efforts, the Department of Energy released the first Smart Grid System Report, which examines the status of smart grid deployments nationwide and any regulatory or government barriers to continued deployment. The report finds that while many smart grid capabilities are just beginning to emerge, the adoption of various technologies—such as smart metering, automated substation controls and distributed generation—is growing significantly.

The report also notes that smart grid capabilities are socially transformational and that to achieve broader deployment and implementation, larger cultural change will be needed. Improvements in physical and cyber security and information privacy will require consumers, manufacturers and utilities to closely follow a range of grid best practices.

The DOE has also begun the development of a Smart Grid Information Clearinghouse. The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) was selected as the winner of the $1.3 million initiative to develop and maintain the Clearinghouse website, which will be charged with answering questions from the public and distributing information about smart grid initiatives happening nationwide.

Recovery Act Awards for Smart Grid Demonstration Projects

Projects are implemented by teams of organizations, including utilities, private companies, universities, governmental groups, etc. The lead organizations for each of the supported projects include:

  • American Superconductor Corporation. Development and In-Grid Demonstration of a Transmission Voltage SuperLimiter Fault Current Limiter (Westborough, MA) - $4,832,972

    American Superconductor is developing and demonstrating advanced technology for a fault current limiter, which will restrict power surges through equipment in fault conditions such as a short circuit, maintaining power quality and grid stability.

  • American Superconductor Corporation. High Temperature Superconductor Transmission Cable System for Installation in the Long Island Power Grid (LIPA 2) (Westborough, MA) - $7,584,120

    American Superconductor Corporation is also developing the key components required to commercially deploy second-generation, high-temperature superconductor cables that will increase the reliability and efficiency of power delivery cables. The company will also use Recovery Act funding to demonstrate a prototype cable in the Long Island Power Authority power grid.

  • Zenergy Power Inc. Design, Test & Demonstration of Saturable Reactor High Temperature Superconducting Fault Current Limiters (San Francisco, CA) - $8,081,973

    Zenergy Power will design, test, and demonstrate an advanced technology for a fault current limiter for use on the transmission system. The goal of the fault current limiter is the same as the American Superconductor technology—restricting power surges in fault conditions such as a short circuit and maintaining power quality and grid stability—but uses a different type of technology to limit the flow of the current.

  • City of Fort Collins. Research Development and Demonstration of Peak Load Reduction on Distribution Feeders Using Distributed Energy Resources for the City of Fort Collins (Fort Collins, CO) - $4,841,647

    The city of Fort Collins, in cooperation with a number of partners in the state, will research, develop and demonstrate a coordinated and integrated system of mixed clean energy technologies and distributed energy resources. This will enable the city to reduce peak load electricity demand by at least 15 percent at distribution feeders and allow for expanded use of renewables.

  • Consolidated Edison Company of New York. Interoperability of Demand Response Resources Demonstration in New York (New York City, NY) - $5,631,110

    Consolidated Edison will develop and demonstrate true interoperability between an energy delivery company and retail electric consumers. By using demand response resources, the project will enhance the reliability of the distribution grid and the efficiency of its operations.

  • Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). The Perfect Power Prototype for the Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago, IL) - $5,405,583

    IIT will develop and demonstrate a system that will achieve “perfect power” at the main campus of ITT, which will always meet the needs of the individual end-user. Different end users have different needs, so a perfect power system focuses on flexibility and adaptability that can accommodate every user. The system will focus on implementing distributed resources and creating demand-responsive microgrids to increase reliability and decrease overall energy demand. The project aims to replicate its efforts with other municipality-sized energy systems.

  • University of Hawaii at Manoa-Hawaii Natural Energy Institute. A Dispatchable Distribution Feeder for Peak Load Reduction and Wind Farming (Honolulu, HI) - $5,548,585

    The University of Hawaii will explore the management of distribution system resources for improved service quality and reliability, transmission congestion relief, and grid support functions.

  • University of Nevada – Las Vegas. Dramatic Residential Demand Reduction in the Desert Southwest (Las Vegas, NV) - $5,724,709

    The University of Nevada-Las Vegas will explore technologies to apply distributed generation and detailed energy accounting and control for a large residential development in the southwestern US, with the goal of significantly reducing residential electrical demand. This community of green homes will provide a laboratory atmosphere that will be used to apply cost benefit analysis and research various energy-conserving design approaches.




Smart Grid is one of those popular political terms that is not well defined. Does it mean super conductors, better power transmission and switching, ability to monitor and control power usage, or all the above and more?

It sounds like a good thing to have a Smart Grid instead of a dumb one, but they have to define what they mean if they want the people to support it with their tax dollars.


I don't think Smart Grid is all that nebulous. We are better off to not freeze a design for now.

In fact I suspect a single approach would lead to chaos as stakeholders spent a decade protecting their turf and invading their neighbors. The DOE would be holding final design reviews in 2027.

In this article they start with their best. The first three project at American Superconductor and Zenergy are to actually deliver product.

The other five bullets describe efforts that may or may not deliver value. We can only wait and see.

The Illinois (IIT) Perfect Power project description defies my Tuesday morning imagination. That paragraph has a buzzword density beyond measure and a fact density below detection.

Henry Gibson

A smarter grid could start with buried Direct Current distribution cables. The status of the semiconductor industry will now allow Direct Current distribution at sufficiently high voltages to be economical. Direct current is far more compatible with super conductors, but the additional cost of installing larger more efficient cables is far less than the cost of larger conductors on overhead lines, and super conductors may not be energy effective because of the cooling costs. Cheap Sodium has been used as a conductor quite successfully in buried cables and could be in the future as well if copper or aluminum is too high priced, and modern cable making materials and facilities can produce such cables.

Energy is automatically stored in direct current distribution systems and additional storage can be added at any point. Mass production of conversion inverters can reduce the cost of conversion. Similar technology to cheap computer power supplies could be used.

Underground cables are far less sensitive to weather and direct current systems are easier to keep stable. A continous cable from the Pacific to the Atlantic could be installed and used and expanded where necessary with cross and parallel cables. Sodium Sulphur batteries could be directly connected at various points or onto lower voltage direct current subsystems.

Windturbines are also much more compatible with direct current collection and distribution systems, as relatively simple equipment can be designed to feed the full available power into the system without regard to wind speed. Underground alternating current cables used for many wind farms lose much more energy than direct current cables would.

Long Island already has a cross sound direct current connection cable and this cable could be extended to other parts of the island and additional converters. Additional power input from the mainland is cheap to build because no power needs to be sent back. More crossing cables can also be added for increased capacity.

Direct Current power delivered directly to the home with underground cables will be more efficient and more reliable and even cheaper. With mass production the cost of the inverter would be similar to that of a transformer and less than the cable cost. Simple circuits plus batteries would make un-interruptible home power. And a simple generator can be added for long term grid failures. The very cheap and simple circuit would prevent power from going back into the grid.

More complicated circuits can be used to intentionally feed power into an operating grid and simple tests can be made to determine if the grid is operating. The circuits are far less complicated than those required to feed power into an AC grid.

Direct Current, with apologies to Tesla and Westinghouse and thanks to Transistors, is now the smarter grid. ..HG..


I can't figure out what the $5M for IIT is actually going to do. But I'm wary of anything that invokes perfection if it has a people quotient attached.

IMO the whole "smart" approach to a grid should be to reduce its size and necessity. Of course my approach has long been to offload demand to distributed RPUs in the home. Even with high temp superconducting materials, the need to deliver electrons from a distance will always be a losing proposition. Losses, cost of maintenance, materials, and generating facilities all limit the long term efficiency of the grid concept.

The University Nevada grant may hold some promise if they build out a community with CHP/RPU generating equipment. Any distributed energy system today still requires net metered grid ties if only for backup power. This however will change as backup functions are replaced by stored energy systems e.g. a 25kWh EV battery plugged in to the RPU circuit as V2RPU. The reliability of CHP/RPUs will rapidly improve with deployment scale, obviating the need for old copper grids and their expensive infrastructures.

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