The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Connected Communities funding program supports projects that expand DOE’s network of grid-interactive, efficient building communities nationwide. These communities interact with the electrical grid to optimize their energy consumption, which will reduce their carbon emissions and cut energy costs.

On October 13, 2021, DOE announced 10 projects selected to receive $61 million to integrate buildings with distributed energy resources (DER), such as solar photovoltaic (PV) generation and electric vehicle charging, to support grid efficiency while meeting occupants’ comfort and needs. These projects are funded by DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, Vehicle Technologies Office, Building Technologies Office, and the Office of Electricity.

Approach

Connected communities of grid-interactive efficient buildings use smart controls, sensors, and analytics to communicate with the grid, reducing the energy they require during periods of peak demand. The teams managing these projects include utilities, local governments, homebuilders, and end-users.

Objectives

Grid communications will optimize buildings and energy resources to maintain the comfort of the building occupants, lower utility bills, and reduce grid system costs. Connected communities will help achieve a decarbonized electricity system by 2035 and decarbonized energy sector by 2050.

Selectees

-- Award and cost share amounts are subject to change pending negotiations –

ELECTRIC POWER RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Location: Palo Alto, California
Planned Location of Buildings: New York, New York; Seattle, Washington; and San Diego, California
DOE Award: $5 million
Cost share: $3 million
Project Summary: Electric Power Research Institute will work with Gas Technology Institute, Seattle City Light, Community Roots Housing, Vistar Energy, and Sentient Buildings to transform multifamily buildings in affordable housing developments into grid-interactive efficient buildings. The project team will retrofit buildings that house more than 2,000 homes across New York, Seattle, and San Diego to demonstrate different ways to decarbonize buildings, make them more resilient, and reduce utility bills.

IBACOS

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Planned Location of Buildings: North Carolina
DOE Award: $6.5 million
Cost share: $4 million
Project Summary: IBACOS will work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Tierra Resource Consultants, Energy and Environmental Economics, Meritage Homes, Duke Energy, Energy Hub and Elevation Home Energy Solutions to deliver 3.8 megawatts of energy from a mix of distributed energy resources (DER) to 1,000 North Carolina homes. These homes include new and existing single-family and multifamily owner-occupied and rental properties in Duke Energy’s service area. This project implements key energy efficiency upgrades for existing properties and will explore the capabilities of a connected network of DER technologies to deliver flexible distributed capacity at scale. Information collected from this project, including occupant experiences, will provide real-world insight on the aggregated grid impacts across a large service area.

OPEN MARKET ESCO

Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Planned Location of Buildings: Lowell, Massachusetts
DOE Award: $6.5 million
Cost share: $3.5 million
Project Summary: Open Market ESCO will work with Fraunhofer USA, Cpower, Clean Energy Group, Logical Buildings, Sparhawk Group, SunRun, and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development to implement energy-saving technologies to 2,000 homes in up to 20 low- to moderate-income apartment communities. The project seeks to demonstrate the financeable pathways for existing, affordable multi-family housing to become grid-interactive efficient buildings. This project will deploy and implement efficiency, demand flexibility, renewable generation, and energy storage. The project team focuses on energy equity and will demonstrate pathways for bringing the energy savings, resilience, comfort, and environmental benefits to these communities.

PACIFICORP

Location: Portland, Oregon
Planned Location of Buildings: Herriman, Salt Lake City, and North Logan, Utah
DOE Award: $6.5 million
Cost share: $3 million
Project Summary: PacifiCorp will work with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Utah State University, Wasatch Energy Group, GIV Group, Utah Transit Authority, Packsize International, Open Systems International, and Sonnen to establish a program to manage solar photovoltaic, batteries, electric vehicle charging in a diverse community of all-electric buildings and a mass transit transportation center, equipped with the latest market-leading efficient technologies to optimize their collective energy use and provide grid services at scale. The buildings include a suburban apartment complex, a complex of mixed-use retail and apartments, a university lab and office building with a microgrid, a mass transit transportation center, a manufacturing building, and a residential home.

PORTLAND GENERAL ELECTRIC

Location: Portland, Oregon
Planned Location of Buildings: Portland, Oregon
DOE Award: $6.5 million
Cost share: $5 million
Project Summary: Portland General Electric will work with Energy Trust of Oregon, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Community Energy Project, National Energy Renewable Laboratory, and Open Systems International to retrofit over 500 buildings in North Portland’s Overlook and Arbor Lodge neighborhoods with energy-efficiency measures and connected devices, including smart thermostats and water heaters. This project builds on Portland General Electric’s Smart Grid Testbed to demonstrate 1.4 megawatts of flexible loads, reduce the energy burden of low-income residents, and explore new ways to reach historically underserved communities.

POST ROAD FOUNDATION

Location: Oakland, California
Planned Location of Buildings: New Hampshire and Maine
DOE Award: $6.5 million
Cost share: $6 million
Project Summary: Post Road Foundation will work with New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, Efficiency Maine Trust, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and Knowledge Problem will investigate the capacity of a novel Transactive Energy Service System to harmonize communications and optimize energy use among the distributed energy resources, local energy markets, and buildings of three rural communities. Each of these communities, in New Hampshire and Maine, consists of 100 to 250 single-family homes, small commercial buildings, and industrial customers.

SLIPSTREAM GROUP

Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Planned Location of Buildings: Madison, Wisconsin
DOE Award: $5 million
Cost share: $3 million
Project Summary: Slipstream Group, in partnership with Madison Gas & Electric, the City of Madison, Rocky Mountain Institute, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and bluEvolution, will convert about 15 facilities to grid-interactive efficient buildings and add nearby electric vehicle charging. If this project shows improvements in cost-effective efficiency and demand flexibility, it will expand to additional privately owned buildings, providing a scalable business model for utilities. The project will also deliver a toolkit with financing options to address opportunities in public and private buildings.

SPOKANE EDO

Location: Spokane, Washington
Planned Location of Buildings: Spokane, Washington
DOE Award: $6.5 million
Cost share: $5 million
Project Summary: Spokane Edo will work with Avista Utilities, McKinstry, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Urbanova to upgrade up to 125 residential and commercial buildings with energy efficiency measures and DER to provide up to 2.25 megawatts of flexible load and grid benefits. This project will demonstrate non-wire alternatives in its retrofits to lower costs and create virtual power plants from existing buildings. Customer demographics will include vulnerable populations in Spokane’s Opportunity Zones.

SUNPOWER CORPORATION

Location: San Jose, California
Planned Location of Buildings: Menifee, California
DOE Award: $6.5 million
Cost share: $3.5 million
Project Summary: SunPower will work with KB Home, the University of California – Irvine, Schneider Electric, and Southern California Edison to develop two all-electric communities consisting of more than 230 homes with solar energy systems. This project may be the blueprint to follow for building new decarbonized homes of the future. These communities will meet DOE’s zero-energy-ready home qualifications and feature home energy management systems and community-scale battery storage.

THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Planned Location of Buildings: Columbus, Ohio
DOE Award: $4 million
Cost share: $4 million
Project Summary: Ohio State will work with ENGIE North America, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the University of California – Berkeley to see how well its existing on-campus connected community of 20 buildings provides ancillary grid services from grid-interactive technologies. This project team will explore data privacy and cybersecurity plans, business models for institutional energy management, and occupant comfort across a range of building types and DER assets.

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