3 Ways Texas’ Grid Is Getting Smarter Thanks To DOE’s SunShot Initiative

on February 05, 2016 at 10:00 AM

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Last week, GridWise Alliance released its 3rd Annual Grid Modernization Index (GMI), a ranking of every state’s progress toward modernization of our nation’s electric system – and Texas impressively placed third. The Alliance, a leading smart grid coalition which includes Environmental Defense Fund, based its assessment on state policies, customer engagement, and investment in advancing grid operations.

As we move toward a smarter, more efficient electric system, Texas is emerging as a leader in grid modernization. And with three recent smart-grid grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative, the Lone Star State could climb to the top of the GMI list.

Since 2011, the DOE has awarded millions of dollars through the SunShot Initiative to a variety of public and private entities. The goal is to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade, meaning it would cost the same to get your power from solar as from more traditional sources like coal. In the short amount of time since the program began, the solar industry is already 70 percent of the way there.

As the sixth largest electricity consumer in the country, Texas could greatly contribute to reaching this goal, especially with recent DOE support given to projects run by Austin Energy, Pecan Street, and GeoCF:

  • Austin Energy: The recipient of the largest SunShot Initiative grant in Texas is Austin’s municipal utility, which received $4.3 million for its SHINES (Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV) Project. As the first DOE funding aimed specifically at solar-plus-storage systems, this project will help determine the best way to integrate renewable energy and energy storage on the grid. The SHINES project aims to make solar more reliable, flexible, and affordable – opening the door for greater adoption of this clean energy resource.
  • Pecan Street, Inc.: America’s leading smart grid laboratory, Pecan Street, is based in Austin and will work with electro-mechanical design company, Concurrent Design to develop an advanced prototype of Energy Switch through a one-year, $1 million cooperative award. Energy Switch is a home energy device that manages the flow of electricity between a home, the home’s on-site battery, solar panels, back-up generation, and the electric grid – making it easier for a smart home and the grid to communicate and coordinate effectively. When all of these components of a home are intelligently and strategically moving electricity around, they are far more efficient than operating alone.
  • GeoCF: The SunShot Initiative awarded GeoCF, the pioneer of geospatial software solutions for utility-scale solar, a $750,000 cooperative award to continue developing and commercializing its Smart Power Maps software. The software will make the implementation and financing of large-scale solar projects much more efficient through rapid data analysis to determine the optimal sites for a project location. With this new funding, GeoCF will be able to expand the data sets used, making the evaluation process more seamless. The award will also go toward building a online portal for financiers and project investors, which will put feasibility analysis and cash flow models for future projects at their fingertips.

Congratulations to the three SunShot Initiative recipients, who will continue to pave the way toward grid modernization in Texas. These newly-invigorated projects and prototypes are changing the way we harness and use solar energy – ensuring Texas has a bright future and a smarter grid ahead. Next year, we just may be number one.

By Sarah Ryan 

Originally Published on February 3, 2016

The Energy Exchange Blog is a forum where EDF‘s energy experts discuss how to accelerate the transition to a clean, low-carbon energy economy. Follow them on Twitter here: @EDFEnergyEX