The West Coast is to benefit from more than $24 million in new economic stimulus funding for smart grid projects, receiving just more than half of $47 million newly awarded to eight smart grid projects under way across the United States.

The funding, announced by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu on July 20, is aimed at accelerating the completion timelines for each of the projects, and thereby helping to accelerate the development and implementation of a modern smart grid for the nation.

Four West Coast (including Hawaii) projects were awarded funding.

The City of Fort Collins was awarded $4.84 million for research development and demonstration of peak load reduction on distribution feeders using distributed energy resources. The project will research, develop and demonstrate a coordinated and integrated system of mixed clean energy technologies and distributed energy resources, with the aim of reducing peak load demand by at least 15% at distribution feeders and allowing for expanded use of renewables.

The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii at Manoa was awarded $5.55 million for a dispatchable distribution feeder for peak load reduction and wind farming. Part of its work on the Maui grid modernization project, the Institute will explore the management of distribution system resources for improved service quality and reliability, transmission congestion relief, and grid support functions.   

The University of Nevada-Las Vegas was awarded $5.72 million for dramatic residential demand reduction in the desert southwest. Working in a residential community of up to 185 homes under development in northwest Las Vegas, the UNLV Center for Energy Research will explore technologies to apply distributed generation and detailed energy accounting and control, with the goal of achieving at least 65% reduction in peak residential electrical demand.

California-based semiconductor applications provider Zenergy Power Inc. was awarded $8.08 million for the design, test and demonstration of saturable reactor high temperature superconducting fault current limiters. The aim is to test this technology to limit the current flow in the limiter, which is installed to restrict power surges in fault conditions such as short circuit and maintain power quality and grid stability.

“Modernizing our electrical grid to make it stronger, smarter, more efficient and more secure is a crucial step in expanding renewable energy and creating jobs,” said Secretary Chu on the announcement of the funding awards. “These investments will help lay the foundation for American leadership in the clean energy economy.”