Palo Alto-Based Institute to Research Solar and Storage Integration


The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot initiative has chosen a Palo Alto, California-based nonprofit, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), to collaborate on a new project. According to a DOE webpage, the project’s purpose is to develop and demonstrate, “integrated photovoltaic (PV) and energy storage solutions that are scalable, secure, reliable, and cost-effective.” According to an EPRI media release, the “value of the research agreement will be about $6.3 million, with DOE contributing $3.1 million and the EPRI team providing a $3.2 million cost share.”

The award, which was announced on January 19, is part of the DOE’s SHINES (Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV) program, which in turn is a part of the DOE’s $220 million Grid Modernization Initiative. In addition to EPRI, five other entities received awards, for a total of $18 million for the six projects. EPRI describes itself as an independent nonprofit that “conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public.”

join_hands_smallAs the release explains, “the key innovation of this research project is the design, development, and demonstration of a two-level control architecture using optimal strategies.” EPRI gives the following examples of this:

  • “A system controller strategy which maintains wide area reliability of the electric system through coordinated control of multiple, local controllers and other distribution equipment; and
  • “A local controller strategy which makes solar PV more predictable through efficient utilization of energy storage, load management, smart inverters, and solar/load forecasting, and also responds to system controller needs.”

In an article published in Forbes, the author noted two significant things about the DOE’s SHINES initiative: a) the goal of the program – to drive down the cost of solar-plus-storage to a “levelized cost of energy” (LCOE) of 14 cents per kWh and that of solar alone to 6 cents per kWh by 2020 – is a very ambitious one, and b) solar storage isn’t merely about accumulating electrons, but about using the system as if it were a computer, to balance loads dynamically and analyze costs to achieve the best possible outcome. An article that appeared in Greentech Media (GTM) cites GTM Research’s senior storage analyst, Ravi Manghani, as claiming that to get to 14 cents per kWh, “storage costs will have to fall by more than 50 percent [from present levels], in addition to the projected drop in utility-scale solar costs.”

Mike Howard, president and CEO of EPRI, said, “Solar PV and energy storage introduce a new level of opportunity and complexity in the delicate balancing act performed by grid planners every day. This effort can help integrate important components of our future energy system.” The DOE’s Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, David Danielson, said, “Without a doubt, innovation in energy storage will help drive [solar] adoption in the United States to new heights.”

In addition to EPRI, the other five awardees are:

  • Austin Energy (Austin, TX),
  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA),
  • Commonwealth Edison Company (Chicago, IL),
  • Fraunhofer USA Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (Boston, MA), and
  • The Hawaiian Electric Company (Honolulu, HI).


Recent Posts