The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $48 million in funding to support a new program focused on developing power grid technologies that improve control and protection of the domestic power grid. Modernizing the nation’s grid infrastructure with improved efficiency and resilience against extreme weather events is critical to ensuring that clean energy and transportation options can reach communities across the country. Addressing these challenges, along with streamlining the coordinated operation of electricity supply and demand will improve the cost efficiency of grid operations and prevent unforeseen outages, which are estimated to cost the U.S. economy $150 billion annually. This new effort by DOE will fund projects that aim to enable utilities to more effectively control grid power flow to avoid disturbances, and quickly isolate and route around disruptions. Grid modernization will support President Biden’s goals to accelerate the deployment of renewables, boost the nation’s energy independence, and achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035.

“A reliable and resilient grid is the key to protecting our power supply from outside threats and expanding America’s clean energy and transportation options,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Federal investments in tools and analysis to modernize our grid will put the nation on a path to meet President Biden’s climate goals and extend the benefits of a decarbonized energy and transportation sector to all corners of the country.”

Managed by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the “Unlocking Lasting Transformative Resiliency Advances by Faster Actuation of power Semiconductor Technologies” (ULTRAFAST)” program will support the development of faster, more capable power electronics for enhanced resiliency, reliability, and control of power flow at all grid interfaces. Successful ULTRAFAST project teams will develop device concepts that target:

  • Semiconductor material, device and/or power module level advances to enable faster switching and/or triggering at higher current and voltage levels
  • Improved electromagnetic interference immunity
  • Complementary sensing, packaging, and thermal management technology

ARPA-E first held a workshop on this topic last year. Workshop participants provided expert inputs on the technical aspects of ultra-fast-triggered semiconductors, and how such devices can aid national goals to develop future high-performance resilient power systems.