Research collaboration with the Net-Zero Microgrid Program at Idaho National Laboratory envisions logistically significant microgrid test beds
Quakertown, PA, December 7, 2023 — Pennsylvania-based ProtoGen Inc. announced today a collaboration with the Net-Zero Microgrid (NZM) Program at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to advance the design, siting and development of resilient microgrids. The NZM program is supported by the Department of Energy Office of Electricity Microgrid Program. The research project will consider eight planned and existing microgrids along a nearly 200-mile corridor stretching from Atlantic City, New Jersey, through Philadelphia to Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The microgrids would serve regional populations during long-duration power outages such as those caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The project will explore various combinations of alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) technologies to connect community and transportation microgrids, with a trajectory to transition to net-zero carbon resilience. “Partnering with ProtoGen provides the Net-Zero Microgrid Program with a pathway to demonstrate tools and research that are viable in the hands of the commercial world,” said Tim McJunkin, technical director of the NZM Program. “The Pennsylvania corridor project gives insight into solutions for nontechnical hurdles to advancing community resilience within a regional transmission organization market.”
For 2023-24, the research will focus on an 18-mile section of the corridor spanning four Pennsylvania municipal utilities — Quakertown, Perkasie, Hatfield and Lansdale — which have a combined annual load of 300,000 MWh. The utilities, co-located along a disused railroad track, share a unique set of regulatory conditions that could allow them to be connected using a newly constructed medium voltage DC (MVDC) feeder circuit. The research will identify and define the technical, economic, and regulatory constraints associated with interconnecting the towns’ substations, their respective transmission feeders, and local generation. These could include distributed energy resources such as solar, biogas, battery energy storage systems, and natural gas generation capable of converting to hydrogen or other clean fuels. The corridor will demonstrate how such an approach can reduce the regional economic impacts while decreasing dependence on fossil energy during events that cause widespread outages by enabling rapid recovery across a range of societal domains.
Tactically connecting microgrids across large population centers and along major transportation corridors would transform how the electric grid operates to provide economic benefits to communities during good days and resilience during calamities. ProtoGen believes that at least 56 such corridors are needed across the lower 48 states to maximize the nation’s disaster preparedness and meet the realities of climate change. Project subsidies and funding opportunities available under the IIJA and IRA could support development of the corridors. “Innovation through the tactical configuration of microgrids is the future of grid planning,” says ProtoGen President Kevin Wright. “While natural disasters are inevitable, we want to minimize the impacts on those who are affected by them while maximizing the ability of communities to help each other,” he added.
Insights gained from the project will provide crucial data on regulatory frameworks, policy constraints, and technical pathways for establishing cost-effective and resilient Net-Zero Microgrids. “Microgrids too often focus on internal economic and resilience benefits. This thinking is limited and not easily scalable — especially as a rationale for rate-basing microgrid investments in traditional and deregulated utility territories,” said Wright. “Our collaboration with INL will establish a logistically significant basis for a pilot project that will allow us to evaluate new and existing rules, policies, and business models related to microgrids.”
ProtoGen, Inc. is an energy consulting company working to drive the energy transition in the United States and beyond. We provide microgrid and energy project development, education and workforce development, and cleantech commercialization services with a focus on resilience and sustainability. Our customers include governments, developers, businesses, labor organizations, universities, and energy innovators. Learn more at ProtoGenEnergy.com.
Contact: Lou Tenney
About Idaho National Laboratory
Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, and also performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. For more information, visit www.inl.gov. Follow us on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
INL Communications Liaison