General Electric has won a $2 million federal stimulus grant to work on a smart grid project – but it isn't from the Department of Energy.
Rather, the funding comes from the Department of Defense to build a "microgrid" at its Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms, Calif., GE reported Wednesday.
The idea is to give the base a "smart energy management system" that combines on-site power generation, energy storage and monitoring and control systems to make the entire base use power more efficiently.
GE has developed a microgrid controller to manage the complex interactions that such a system will require, allowing the base to both function as an isolated unit, making and using its own energy, and to interact with the larger-scale grid it's connected to.
The idea of a self-contained grid is doubtless attractive to the military, given its need to keep bases powered in every contingency. But it's also seen as a potential way for utilities to integrate energy storage systems and renewable power sources like solar and wind at manageable scales.
Duke Energy is working on a microgrid pilot project in its headquarters city of Charlotte, N.C., involving a 50-kilowatt solar panel array, a 500-kilowatt zinc bromide battery to store power, and about 100 homes linked up with home energy management systems that communicate with the utility (see Integral Analytics: Orchestrating Duke's 'Virtual Power Plant').
There may well be other microgrid projects seeking funding from the $3.9 billion in smart grid grants the DOE plans to start awarding this year (see DOE Issues Rules for $3.9B in Smart Grid Stimulus Grants).