Author:  US DOE Staff     Published: 11/2/2022      SETO

Renewables Advancing Community Energy Resilience

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) Renewables Advancing Community Energy Resilience (RACER) is a $33 million funding program supporting projects that enable communities to use solar and solar-plus-storage to prevent disruptions in power caused by extreme weather and other events, and to rapidly restore electricity if it goes down.

DOE announced the RACER funding opportunity on April 12, 2022 and announced the selection of 20 projects detailed below on November 2, 2022.

Approach

Projects are designed to foster engagement and ongoing communication among multiple stakeholders such as utilities, municipal planners, emergency responders, community groups, and others, especially in underserved communities located in areas vulnerable to extreme events causing frequent energy and power service disruptions. In addition, projects will develop and demonstrate rapid energy restoration technologies that can be replicated in other parts of the country.

Projects fall under three topic areas:

  • Topic Area 1: Innovative Community-Based Energy Resilience Planning – these projects will develop energy resilience planning frameworks at the community level through robust multi-stakeholder participation and collaboration.
  • Topic Area 2: Automation Strategies for Rapid Energy Restoration – these projects will develop and demonstrate sensors and communication technologies that enable rapid identification of available assets to re-energize a power system after an extreme event.
  • Topic Area 3: Innovative Solutions to Increase the Resilience and Hardening of Photovoltaic  (PV) Power Plants – these projects will advance innovative approaches to PV system hardening by using novel sensors, communications strategies, and data analytics to increase generation-side hardware resilience to minimize damage during extreme events.

Objectives

By using solar-plus-storage and a variety of stakeholder partnerships, these research activities will increase the resilience of energy systems, increasing communities’ preparedness to withstand and recover rapidly from disasters. The 20 projects selected under RACER will advance innovative approaches to community energy planning and develop and demonstrate resilient clean energy technologies.

Selectees

These projects span over 30 diverse communities from California to Puerto Rico, and include partners from local and state governments, national labs, universities, and nonprofit organizations.

map shows locations of prime awardees and locations where projects will take place.

— Award and cost share amounts are rounded and subject to change pending negotiations —

Topic Area 1: Innovative Community-Based Energy Resilience Planning

CITY OF DULUTH

Project Name: Form Follows Function (F3): A Framework for Community-based Energy Resilience Planning in the Midwest
Location: Duluth, MN
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Awardee Cost Share: None
Principal Investigator: Mindy Granley
Project Description: This project is developing an innovative and replicable community-based energy resilience planning process in Duluth, MN, through deep engagement with diverse community stakeholders including utilities and government entities. The team is gaining a greater understanding of community needs during grid disruptions and is studying the deployment potential of solar-plus-storage and microgrids. When completed, the framework will inform resilient energy improvements for cold climate communities and will build off past disasters experienced in northeastern Minnesota.

ELECTRIC POWER RESEARCH INSTITUTE, INC.

Project Name: Accelerating Resilience of the Community through Holistic Engagement and Use of Renewables (ARCHER) Planning Framework
Location: Palo Alto, CA
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Awardee Cost Share: $250,000
Principal Investigator: Christopher Green
Project Description: This project is developing a community-focused planning framework that uses distributed energy resources like solar to provide more energy resilience to prevent power disruptions caused by extreme weather events. The goal is to minimize the potential burden of outages on local residents, especially communities of color and low-income communities. After development of the resilience planning framework, the project team will deploy it in a historically Black neighborhood in Nashville, TN, an area directly impacted by a destructive tornado and derecho in 2020, which caused extended power outages.

GROUNDSWELL, INC.

Project Name: Resilient Communities, Maryland
Location: Washington, DC
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Awardee Cost Share: $270,000
Principal Investigator: David Wright
Project Description: This project is developing an equitable, community-driven energy resilience framework that will be replicated across the state of Maryland and will support increased public safety and improve preparedness and recovery in the event of hazardous events and extended grid outages. This will be accomplished by combining community-defined resilience metrics; resilience hub siting, design, and operations that are aligned with community-defined metrics; and broader energy equity considerations that link resilience efforts to the lived experience of the communities they serve in the context of both outage and regular operating conditions.

KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY

Project Name: Stakeholder-Guided Holistic, Adaptive Framework for Enhancing Community Energy Resilience (SAFER)
Location: Manhattan, KS
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Awardee Cost Share: None
Principal Investigator: Bala Natarajan
Project Description: This project is examining the fundamental relationships between disasters, power grid resources, socioeconomics, and social equity in Ford County, Kansas, an underserved rural area. The research team will produce a one-of-a-kind resilience analysis and planning tool that can enhance community energy resilience. It will enable decision makers to evaluate solar-plus-storage investments that can lead to measurable impacts on equity-driven resilience. This can serve as a benchmark for other communities in Kansas and beyond with the ability to be scaled nationally to increase system-level resilience.

LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LABORATORY

Project Name: Ensuring the Health and Safety of Vulnerable Populations from Extreme Heat in Moderate and Coastal Climates with Solar-Plus-Storage
Location: Berkeley, CA
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Awardee Cost Share: None
Principal Investigator: Max Wei
Project Description: This project is developing a framework for protecting communities and increasing resilience during heat waves for vulnerable populations in moderate climates. The project team will develop criteria for vulnerability and risk assessment based on existing climate modeling and other tools that provide downscaled local estimates for future heat waves. Using lab-developed tools, the team will determine the most effective residential active and passive cooling measures and quantify the resilience benefits of solar-plus-storage at various scales. Based on the developed energy resilience planning framework, the team will identify locations in Oakland and San Francisco where solar storage deployment can best support increased community energy resilience.

NATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY LABORATORY

Project Name: Planning for Solar investment at the Convergence of Resilience and Equity (SCORE)
Location: Golden, CO
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Awardee Cost Share: None
Principal Investigator: Nick Grue
Project Description: This project is developing a neighborhood-scale quantification and valuation tool to determine the social benefits of renewable-based resilience investments in the southern Seattle, Washington area. Working with stakeholders, the team plans to use emerging planning approaches that have been developed at national labs to create this first-of-its-kind equity-informed resilience tool. The result will be a demonstration of resilience-inclusive investment planning, alongside a finalized conceptual design for these communities that can be budgeted and presented for approval to the Seattle City Council.

NAVAJO TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY

Project Name: A People-Centered Decision Support Tool for Enhancing Power Grid Resilience for the Navajo Nation
Location: Crownpoint, NM
DOE Award Amount: $900,000
Awardee Cost Share: $230,000
Principal Investigator: Kamel Alboaouh
Project Description: This project is developing a comprehensive energy decision support tool for the Navajo Nation using a people-centered approach where the value of energy is quantified from the perspective of its impact on the tribal community. Power system resilience for existing customers in Navajo Nation is challenged by a myriad of factors such as high wind, drought, and flooding, creating a complex multi-hazard risk environment. This project will bring together an inclusive team of experts in social science and multiple engineering fields, community partners, local government, and utilities to increase energy resilience for those both near and far from high population centers on the reservation.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY

Project Name: Resilient Renewable Energy to Diminish Disaster Impacts on Communities (Resilient REDDI Communities)
Location: Raleigh, NC
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Awardee Cost Share: None
Principal Investigator: Isaac Panzarella
Project Description: This project is developing a guide for emergency managers across North Carolina to assess and implement enhanced energy resilience strategies to mitigate the effects of energy loss during a disaster. This includes a framework for integrating enhanced community energy resilience in the planning and execution for each phase of emergency management. A primary focus will be the use of distributed energy resilience resources, such as solar-plus-storage, at several levels of local disaster response including critical infrastructure facilities, community outposts, and low-income housing.

UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA

Project Name: Clean, Affordable, and Resilient Energy Systems (CARES) for Socially Vulnerable and At-Risk Communities
Location: Orlando, FL
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Awardee Cost Share: None
Principal Investigator: Kristopher Davis
Project Description: This project is developing a geospatial framework to optimize the deployment of solar-plus-storage for the most vulnerable and at-risk communities in Central Florida and the Florida Panhandle. The research team will determine the relationship between extreme weather events and grid outages to quantify vulnerability and risk before selecting the optimal location to site solar and solar-plus-storage. Ultimately, this interdisciplinary geospatial framework can be translated and scaled to other communities around the world with the end goal of helping provide clean, affordable, and resilient energy systems to those who need it most.

VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Project Name: Virginia Economically Disadvantaged Communities Energy Resiliency Study
Location: Big Stone Gap, VA
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Awardee Cost Share: None
Principal Investigator: Austin Counts
Project Description: This project is conducting community-driven energy resiliency planning efforts in Virginia’s most economically disadvantaged communities. The research team will identify opportunities to use distributed energy resources like solar-plus-storage in ten different locations to maximize the benefits energy resiliency infrastructure for disaster response needs. The project will also provide communities with tools to assess, plan, and visualize solar-plus-storage developments to meet their specific needs while overcoming the barriers associated with community energy security planning.

WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY

Project Name: Data-Driven Community-Centered Resilient Assessment and Planning Toolkit for Nexus of Energy and Water (DCRAPT-NEW)
Location: Detroit, MI
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Awardee Cost Share: None
Principal Investigator: Caisheng Wang
Project Description: This project is developing an open-source, open-access, community-centered distributed energy resource planning tool for energy and water resilience enhancement in urban areas. The research team aims to engage community members in Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, analyze multiple layers of information and interaction between water and energy systems, and co-optimize planning and operation. The resulting planning tool will help to strategically install solar, energy storage, and other distributed energy resources, and to devise preparedness and response plans. Additionally, the project is considering mobile energy storage.

Topic Area 2: Automation Strategies for Rapid Energy Restoration

GE RESEARCH

Project Name: Community Resilience Through Rapid Restoration Leveraging Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) and Low-Awardee Cost Sensors
Location: Niskayuna, NY
DOE Award Amount: $3 million
Awardee Cost Share: $1.5 million
Principal Investigator: Bilgehan Donmez
Project Description: This project is developing rapid and automated power system restoration technologies that use sensors and solar to strengthen community resilience under extreme weather events. The researchers will consider community energy needs in tandem with technology development by establishing equitable resilience metrics to inform deployment. This work, which will be demonstrated in Puerto Rico, will ensure all utility customers in the community are able to access electricity in a scalable and equitable way, while reducing outage time and ensuring rapid energization of critical loads.

NATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY LABORATORY

Project Name: Solar-Assisted, Stakeholder-Engaged, Autonomous Restoration with Data Orchestration (Solar-HERO)
Location: Golden, CO
DOE Award Amount: $3 million
Awardee Cost Share: $2.2 million
Principal Investigator: Fei Ding
Project Description: This project is developing an estimation tool that coordinates multiple datasets to enable real-time visibility of the grid in Ramsey, Minnesota. The research team will identify current gaps in information and the needs of community members before designing a cost-effective community visibility and controllability upgrade plan that enables automated restoration during power outages. Additionally, the team will develop a virtual emergency operations center to enable two-way interactions and coordination among different stakeholders to conduct rapid, automated, and equitable restoration.

NATIONAL RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATION

Project Name: CIDER: Community-Integrated Distributed Energy Resilience
Location: Arlington, VA
DOE Award Amount: $2.9 million
Awardee Cost Share: $1.1 million
Principal Investigator: David Pinney
Project Description: This project aims to demonstrate an energy platform that will allow utilities and community members to easily and quickly coordinate their energy assets and upgrades during and before events that likely result in power outages. The platform will give the utility increased visibility into the solar and other distributed energy resources on the grid, as well as their utility-scale assets. Under extreme conditions, this improved situational awareness and automation will provide the visibility and control necessary for a fast grid response to community needs, including avoiding, mitigating, and recovering from power outages. Under normal operating conditions, this additional visibility and control will allow a utility to plan and operate the grid with increased reliability and efficiency, with reduced emissions, and at lower cost to community members.

SLIPSTREAM GROUP INC.

Project Name: Demonstration of a VOLTTRON-based Platform to Enable Rapid Energy Restoration at Castañer in Puerto Rico
Location: Madison, WI
DOE Award Amount: $1.4 million
Awardee Cost Share: $600,000
Principal Investigator: Xiaohui Zhou
Project Description: This project is developing an innovative, community-based, energy resilience plan for the Cordillera Central community of Castañer, Puerto Rico to assist the local utility in developing tools to restore power faster after extreme events. The research team will design, test, and deploy an automated sensing and control system that integrates with a community-owned, multi-property microgrid for rapid power restoration. The innovative approach is based on internet-of-things and cloud technologies to enable devices to share grid status information between the community and the utility. The technology will increase coordination among stakeholders for rapid grid restoration utilizing solar technologies.

UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT

Project Name: Proactive: Predictive Community Outage Preparedness and Active Last Mile Visibility Feedback Autonomous Restoration
Location: Storrs, CT
DOE Award Amount: $3 million
Awardee Cost Share: $1.4 million
Principal Investigator: Junbo Zhao
Project Description: This project is developing a predictive community outage preparedness solution to achieve resiliency in Hartford and West Hartford, Connecticut with solar and other distributed energy resources. The tool under development will transform traditionally manual grid restoration into two-layer outage prediction preparedness and real-time robust grid visibility. Hartford is home to a microgrid, while West Hartford has hundreds of homes with rooftop solar, a variety of critical service facilities, some of which have backup generators, and multiple residential and commercial loads. The team will closely work with community stakeholders throughout the project.

WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY

Project Name: Resilient Communities via Risk-driven Infrastructure Planning and Automated Restoration (Recuperat)
Location: Pullman, WA
DOE Award Amount: $3 million
Awardee Cost Share: $1.1 million
Principal Investigator: Anamika Dubey
Project Description: This project is working to improve the grid resilience for underserved communities in Rockford, Illinois that are affected by high-speed winds. The solution under development uses metrics-driven distribution system planning to rapidly restore the power grid with the assistance of distributed energy resources. The technology will establish new value propositions for the capability of solar-plus-storage to enable automated restoration with self-organizing “islands” in power distribution systems.

Topic Area 3: Innovative Solutions to Increase the Resilience and Hardening of PV Power Plants

COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY

Project Name: Enhancing Hardening and Resilience of Solar Trackers Under Strong Winds
Location: Fort Collins, CO
DOE Award Amount: $2.3 million
Awardee Cost Share: $600,000
Principal Investigator: Yanlin Guo
Project Description: This project is developing a wide range of cost-effective, aerodynamic measures to enable single-axis solar trackers to better withstand high winds. Trackers are notoriously susceptible to wind-induced damages, posing critical challenges for solar in windy regions. The research team will work to improve tracker resilience by optimizing a combination of aerodynamic measures for arrays of trackers, the emergency response prior each windstorm, and routine maintenance protocols during the life span of solar power plants.

FLORIDA AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL UNIVERSITY

Project Name: Hot-Swap and Modular Solar-Plus-Storage System to Achieve Strong Resilience and Fast Restoration from Natural Disasters for Underserved or Vulnerable Communities
Location: Tallahassee, FL
DOE Award Amount: $3 million
Awardee Cost Share: $750,000
Principal Investigator: Yuan Li
Project Description: This project is developing a modular solar-plus-storage energy system that can be used to increase the resilience of local vulnerable communities during pre-disaster preparedness and post-disaster fast restoration. The modular system will be extremely light-weight and compact, enabling uninterrupted operation by two utility persons without using any heavy equipment and their advanced automatic fault detection, alarming, and isolation for ultra-fast restoration.

LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LABORATORY

Project Name: Innovative Optical & Acoustic Sensing – Advancing Design & Operations of Solar PV Systems, Increasing Performance and Reducing Unplanned Weather Losses
Location: Berkeley, CA
DOE Award Amount: $500,000
Awardee Cost Share: $470,000
Principal Investigator: Gerald Robinson
Project Description: This project is developing a tool using distributed fiber optic sensing technology that will provide insight on how solar structures can effectively operate during wind events. Currently, there is a lack of foundational data needed to characterize solar structures subjected to wind, rain, snow and ice, which prevents effective engineering and delays important updates to codes and standards.  This project will ultimately enable computational modeling tools used by engineers and empirical decision-making processes used by standards development organizations to include loading data.
Learn more about the Solar Energy Technologies Office’s systems integration researchfunding programs, and open funding opportunities.