When the electric grid was created a century ago, power generation was a one-way street. Utilities created electricity through distant coal-burning plants and transmitted it to the customers who consumed it. The growth of distributed energy generation through renewable energy sources requires some major changes in the way we operate the grid—customers can now generate their own power through solar panels and other onsite clean energy sources, and sell some of it back to the grid. This one-way street will need to look more like a superhighway in the years ahead to make sure our grid becomes a stronger platform for consumer empowerment, security, and sustainability.

That’s why the Department of Energy recently created the Grid Modernization Initiative (GMI), an ongoing effort that reflects the Obama Administration’s commitment to improve the resiliency, reliability, and security of the nation’s grid, while simultaneously adding rapidly growing amounts of renewable energy.

This is where the power of storage comes in. Energy storage, such as batteries, is an essential tool for incorporating more solar energy onto our grid. When the sun is shining, storage can act as a traffic cop, evening out how much solar energy enters the grid so that excess solar energy can be used when the sun sets or clouds go by. It’s something the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative has been working on for the last few years, and today we are excited to announce an additional $18 million in high-impact projects focused on finding cost-effective solutions to the challenge through our new SHINES program (“Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV”).

Under our SHINES program we are funding six new projects totaling $18 million that will enable the development and demonstration of solar technologies that incorporate energy storage and work seamlessly to meet both consumer needs and the needs of the electricity grid. These projects will enable dramatically increased deployment of “available on demand” solar-generated electricity, breaking down a key barrier to successfully enabling hundreds of new gigawatts of solar onto the grid in the decades ahead.

But today’s SHINES announcement doesn’t stand alone – it’s part of our broader grid modernization efforts. Just last week, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the release of the GMI’s first-ever Multi-Year Program Plan and the first formal projects under the GMI’s Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium, an investment of up to $220 million over three years into 88 projects with more than 100 external partners.

We’re just getting started in our innovative new DOE-wide Grid Modernization Initiative. Stay tuned for more exciting GMI announcements in the days and weeks ahead.