Southwest Power Pool, MISO Part Of U.S. Initiative To Modernize Power Grid

Little Rock-based Southwest Power Pool is one of the regional transmission organizations participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s ongoing Grid Modernization Initiative that’s central to the Obama Administration’s initiative to improve the resiliency, reliability and security of the nation’s electricity delivery system.

DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz announced Thursday (Jan. 14) the release of the administration’s blueprint to upgrade the nation’s power grid with the award of up to $220 million to DOE’s National Labs and partners to support critical research and development in advanced storage systems, clean energy integration, standards and test procedures, and a number of other key grid modernization areas.

“Modernizing the U.S. electrical grid is essential to reducing carbon emissions, creating safeguards against attacks on our infrastructure, and keeping the lights on,” Moniz said in a news release. “Our Quadrennial Energy Review and Quadrennial Technology Review identified needs and opportunities to invest in the grid. This public-private partnership between our National Laboratories, industry, academia, and state and local government agencies will help us further strengthen our ongoing efforts to improve our electrical infrastructure so that it is prepared to respond to the nation’s energy needs for decades to come.”

The grid modernization program was developed by DOE in collaboration with a wide range of key external partners. The program lays out a blueprint for the Department’s research, development, and demonstration agenda to enable a modernized grid, building on concepts and recommendations from DOE’s recently released Quadrennial Energy Review and Quadrennial Technology Review.

The $220 million awards, subject to congressional appropriations, will be handed out to more than 80 projects over three years for research and development funding through the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium, which involves 14 DOE National Laboratories and dozens of industry, academia, and state and local government agency partners across the country. These funds are being awarded in response to a challenge to the National Laboratories to establish a comprehensive grid-related research and development effort to address a range of emerging challenges and opportunities in the nation’s power grid, DOE officials said.

One of the proposed initiatives in the program includes Project 16, which will convene industry and academic experts in power systems to study the high voltage AC and DC transmission seams between the U.S. interconnections and propose upgrades to existing facilities that reduce the cost of modernizing the nation’s power system.

SPP and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) are two of the partners involved in the proposed $1.2 million, two-year research project.

“With SPP’s recent expansion to the Canadian border, we have a keen interest in the efficient development and operation of the existing seams between the Eastern and Western Interconnections in the U.S.,” said Lanny Nickell, vice president of engineering at Southwest Power Pool. “The proposed project will explore timely questions about aging infrastructure and enhance existing regional and interregional planning processes. We commend the Department of Energy for funding this important study and look forward to participating.”

Other Project 16 partners include the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Minnesota Power, Xcel Energy, Tetra Tech, Transgrid Solutions, Utility Variable-Generation Integration Group (UVIG), and Bryndan Associates. DOE officials said additional programs, initiatives and funding opportunity announcements related to the Grid Modernization Initiative will be announced in the coming days.