The Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2019 (SETO FY2019) funding program supports projects that will improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the national grid. This program funds projects that advance early-stage systems integration, photovoltaic (PV), and concentrating solar-thermal power technologies, and reduce the non-hardware costs associated with installing solar energy systems.

On November 6, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would provide $128 million in funding for 75 projects in this program. Fifteen of these projects will focus on advanced solar systems integration technologies.


Systems integration projects will better enable grid operators to add increasing amounts of solar generation onto the grid in a cost-effective, secure, resilient, and reliable manner. The three subtopics will focus on adaptive distribution protection, grid services from behind-the-meter solar and other distributed energy resources, and advanced PV controls and cybersecurity.


Projects in this funding program will address the technical challenges facing system operators to integrate higher penetration of solar generation. These projects will result in technologies that improve the protection distribution power system, enhance the visibility and control of PV inverters and plants, and realize the benefits of distributed PV to help supplement grid services while improving the security of those devices from cyberattack.


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

Adaptive Distribution Protection


Project Name: Adaptive Protection and Validated Models to Enable Deployment of High Penetrations of Solar PV
Location: Palo Alto, CA
DOE Award Amount: $4.1 million 
Cost Share: $1.5 million 
Project Summary: This project will develop and test trustworthy models of solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities to enable power system engineers to plan, operate, and protect transmission and distribution systems. The models will inform system designs so that they can leverage smart inverter capabilities for microgrids and islanded systems, which operate independently of the national grid, to ensure the resilience of critical infrastructure and maintain grid safety and reliability. The team will also demonstrate adaptive protection systems that use advanced PV capabilities.


Project Name: Autonomous, Adaptive, and Secure Distribution Protection
Location: Atlanta, GA
DOE Award Amount: $2.6 million
Cost Share: $1.3 million  
Project Summary: This project will develop an autonomous protection system that uses dynamic models to determine the state of the grid based on a physical area that the system protects. It will be able to identify the parameters of the protected area to continuously correct and verify the models. The system will not contain settings or be affected by the direction or level of fault currents. This protection system will be compatible with distribution systems that have very high penetrations of solar and other distributed energy resources.


Project Name: Suite of Advanced Models for Large-Scale PV Systems
Location: Knoxville, TN
DOE Award Amount: $2 million 
Cost Share: $900,000 
Project Summary: This project will deliver three kinds of models—dynamic, high-fidelity, and advanced—of utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) generators, as well as power systems with high penetrations of distributed energy resources in distribution feeders. These models will capture the system dynamics under different conditions to better understand how the grid responds to various events. Advanced control functionalities aim to reduce momentary power cessation, increase system stability, and improve grid reliability.


Project Name: Adaptive Protection and Control for High-Penetration PV and Grid Resilience
Location: Albuquerque, NM 
DOE Award Amount: $4.9 million 
Cost Share: $3.7 million 
Project Summary: This project team will design a scalable adaptive protection platform for distribution systems and microgrids with high penetrations of distributed energy resources, like solar photovoltaics (PV), that improves the selectivity and sensitivity of the protection system. The team will create communication-free modular units that attach to intelligent protection devices to guarantee the protection system’s operation during extreme weather, equipment failures, and other events. This project will transform power system protection from static settings that are not sufficiently reliable for high penetrations of solar to a platform that can adapt to real-time grid conditions.

Grid Services from Behind-the-Meter Solar and Other Distributed Energy Resources


Project Name: Risk-Informed Hierarchical Control of Behind-the-Meter DER with AMI Data Integration
Location: Golden, CO
DOE Award Amount: $3 million 
Cost Share: $1.2 million 
Project Summary: This project will develop a real-time controller of behind-the-meter distributed energy resources (DER), such as solar and battery storage, and loads to ensure that bulk power system operators or distribution utilities get enough power. Integrating data from smart meters will enable optimal provision of grid services to improve grid reliability in distribution systems with high solar penetration. To enable scaling and minimize adoption risk, the team—along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Electric Power Research Institute, Pecan Street, Provo City Power, and Commonwealth Edison—will work with existing utility infrastructure.


Project Name: Enable BTM DER-Provided Grid Services that Maximize Customer and Grid Benefits
Location: Knoxville, TN
DOE Award Amount: $3 million 
Cost Share: $1.1 million 
Project Summary: This project team will research, develop, and demonstrate collected data and controls to enable behind-the-meter (BTM) solar photovoltaics and other distributed energy resources (DER). The goal is to cost-effectively provide grid services in both distribution and bulk power systems while enhancing system reliability. The team will conduct advanced transmission, distribution, and DER simulations to validate the merit and performance of DER-provided services, and better estimate the potential need for network upgrades. The team will lead an industry collaboration to develop BTM DER grid services guidelines to expand the provision of grid services and address existing regulatory barriers.


Project Name: Optimization of Excess Solar and Storage Capacity for Grid Services
Location: Las Vegas, NV
DOE Award Amount: $3 million 
Cost Share: $2.4 million 
Project Summary: This project will evaluate using behind-the-meter (BTM) storage, demand response, and utility “electric storage as a service” to extend the benefits and adoption of BTM solar through grid services. These services will be enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain-powered smart contracts that can track and settle transactions leveraging information from smart meters and smart inverters. The team will develop AI to use excess storage capacity for grid operations and to pay customers for their extra capacity.

Advanced PV Controls and Cybersecurity


Project Name: Advanced Grid-Forming (GFM) Inverter Controls, Modeling and System Impact Study for Inverter Dominated Grids
Location: Niskayuna, NY
DOE Award Amount: $4.2 million 
Cost Share: $1.4 million 
Project Summary: This project will develop a modeling method and automation tool to analyze the stability of a large energy system with mixed resources, such as inverter-based generation and traditional generators, and see how they interact with each other. The team will also develop controls for individual and clusters of grid-forming photovoltaic (PV) inverters to improve grid stability under various conditions. The technology will be implemented in GE’s commercial PV inverter, thereby facilitating its commercialization.


Project Name: Cybersecure Utility DER Networking with Integrated Multi-Party Trust
Location: Santa Rosa, CA
DOE Award Amount: $2.6 million 
Cost Share: $900,000 
Project Summary: This project team will work with the power company Exelon to develop and deploy communications technology that securely shares information about solar and other distributed energy resources (DER) with multiple parties across multiple connections, including the internet. With new capabilities and protections, the technology will connect to existing utility software platforms. This will allow utilities to comply with new regulations requiring direct communication with DER, restrict access to trusted partners, and improve cybersecurity.


Project Name: Grid Resiliency with a 100% Renewable Microgrid
Location: San Diego, CA 
DOE Award Amount: $4.5 million 
Cost Share: $1.4 million 
Project Summary: This project will research and validate microgrid technologies that enable the use of solar and other distributed energy resources (DER) with grid-forming photovoltaic and battery inverters. These devices can improve grid stability and resilience by maintaining voltage and frequency during changing conditions, especially microgrid islanding, which independently provides power. The team will develop new controls and software for smart photovoltaic (PV) inverters and DER management systems that may allow more flexibility for the interconnection and operation of small-scale PV and other DER systems.


Project Name: Autonomous Grid-forming Inverters Enabled by Always-on Universal Droop Control without External Communication or Phase-Locked Loops
Location: Chicago, IL
DOE Award Amount: $600,000 
Cost Share: $300,000 
Project Summary: This project will develop a hacker-proof grid-forming inverter that doesn’t rely on a communication network, can avoid cascading blackouts even when there are grid faults, and can start up the grid without the help of a traditional generator in what’s known as black start. The inverter will be able to autonomously resynchronize with the grid while supplying local loads, including during a black start. The project will address a major challenge of high penetration of solar and other distributed energy resources (DER) and offer guidelines for DER integration to improve grid stability, resiliency, security, and reliability.


Project Name: Secure Monitoring and Control of Solar PV Systems through Dynamic Watermarking
Location: College Station, TX
DOE Award Amount: $4.4 million
Cost Share: $1.6 million 
Project Summary: This project will develop and demonstrate an active defense mechanism of cyber-resilient PV distribution system operation using a dynamic watermarking technique to monitor cybersecurity. The technique involves injecting a probe signal onto the grid to authenticate grid actions. The approach will include real-time deployment of online computational algorithms in real-world critical locations. The team will test and validate the integrated communication, control, and computational framework using an existing system.


Project Name: Autonomous Inverter Controls for Resilient and Secure Grid Operation 
Location: Orlando, FL
DOE Award Amount: $3 million 
Cost Share: $800,000 
Project Summary: This project aims to provide a unified control design framework to enhance photovoltaic inverter controls and address the technical challenges of keeping the grid secure. It will coordinate grid-forming and grid-following inverters and black-start capability, which enables systems to restart independently after a power outage; ensure scalability and system stability; and protect against cyberattacks. The team will validate the technology using software simulations and lab field tests.


Project Name: Multilevel Cybersecurity for Photovoltaic Systems
Location: Fayetteville, AR
DOE Award Amount: $3.5 million 
Cost Share: $1.1 million 
Project Summary: This project will address cybersecurity at both the inverter and system levels for photovoltaic energy systems. First the team will develop an inverter to address supply-chain security, real-time intrusion detection methods, vulnerability mitigation, control system security, safety protocols, and other concerns. Then, at the system level, the team will use machine-learning algorithms, a multilayered blockchain platform, and model-based intrusion detection.


Project Name: A Scalable Control Architecture for 100% PV Penetration with Grid Forming Inverters
Location: Seattle, WA
DOE Award Amount: $4.9 million 
Cost Share: $2.1 million 
Project Summary: This project will develop two kinds of grid-forming controls: fast communication-free controls for inverters for solar-plus-storage systems, and slower controls that use a distributed communication architecture for system-wide energy management. These controls will be immune to communication outages and be compatible with small solar energy systems as well as the bulk power grid.

Learn more about the SETO FY2019 funding program and the projects selected for the photovoltaics, concentrating solar-thermal power, innovations in manufacturing: hardware incubator, and balance of systems soft cost reduction topics.

Learn more about the solar office’s other funding programs.