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DOE Rolls Out $47M for Smart Grid Demos, Unveils First Smart Grid Status Report

Eight smart grid demonstration projects in seven states have just hit pay dirt. The Department of Energy today announced awards of more than $47 million in stimulus funds for the projects, adding to the $17 million that the agency invested in them last year after a competitive application process. Among the companies cashing in today are Massachusetts-based American Superconductor, Consolidated Edison (s ED) (Con Edison) of New York, California’s Zenergy Power and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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The eight projects cover a cross section of smart grid technologies. We’ll be interested to see results from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas demo, which the DOE says will receive more than $5.72 million to trial distributed generation (e.g. home solar panels) and energy management tools in a residential development that’s meant to provide a large-scale “laboratory atmosphere” for testing these technologies.

smartgrid-report-july09 American Superconductor (s AMSC) and Zenergy Power, meanwhile, are both working on advanced technology (different types) for what are called fault current limiters to control power surges and help stabilize the grid. American Superconductor has been awarded more than $12.4 million for two projects, including the fault current limiter project and another dealing with high-temperature superconductor electrical cables.

The city of Fort Collins, Colo., has also made the cut, receiving about $4.84 million to help it “research, develop and demonstrate a coordinated and integrated system” for bringing more distributed renewable energy onto the grid. Con Edison has snagged $5.63 million for its demand-response demonstration, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Natural Energy Institute is getting $5.55 million for distribution system technologies. For the full list of awards and projects, check out the DOE announcement here.

In addition to announcing the $47 million in stimulus awards for demo projects, the DOE has issued its first status report (PDF) today on smart grid technology and deployments, as required by the 2007 Energy Act (it will be updated biennially). While the report is intended as an assessment of progress “across many fronts” of the smart grid, the agency notes key findings in the areas of distributed energy, electricity infrastructure, business and policy and “high-tech culture change,” calling for a “cross-disciplinary change that instills greater interaction among all the stakeholders,” from consumers to electricity brokers to policy makers and investors.

The status report details 20 different metrics that the DOE has created for tracking progress in future reports, although they may be “reviewed for continued relevance and appropriate emphasis of major smart grid attributes” in coming years. For now, they include venture capital activity, the portion of on-road vehicles that are all-electric or plug-in hybrids and adoption/maturity levels for interoperability standards, as well as the percentage of utilities using several smart grid technologies.

For those of you interested or working in the sector, it’s worth a read to get a glimpse of how the government sees the state of an industry and technologies in which it’s investing big bucks to help build.

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