Grid-forming inverters enter prime time with DOE funding


Grid-forming inverters are an “emerging technology” that allows solar and other inverter-based energy sources to restart the grid without a spinning turbine, says the U.S. Department of Energy. DOE announced funding for a new consortium to advance research on the technology.

As fossil generators are phased out, grid-forming inverters will need to be phased in so that the grid can be restarted after any blackout.

(Read “Inertia, frequency regulation and the grid.”)

Providing a more technical explanation, a Science journal article on terawatt-scale PV noted that at higher levels of PV deployment, the resource will need to provide grid services; and at very high levels as fossil-fueled synchronous generators are retired, “PV systems will need to generate their own voltage reference waveforms and synchronize together.”

Already, grid-forming technology has advanced far enough that an Australian project announced in August will deploy a 250 MW/ 250 MWh grid-forming battery.

DOE’s $25 million grant will support a consortium led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Washington, and the Electric Power Research Institute, with participation from other national labs, universities, manufacturers, utilities, and grid operators.

The consortium’s research, said DOE, will focus on integrating grid-forming inverters into electric grids “at any scale, to enable high penetration of inverter-based resources, like solar and wind.”

The consortium will conduct and coordinate research, development, and demonstration, and create educational and workforce‐training materials regarding planning, designing, and operating grids with a high level of inverter‐based resources. It will also develop “universal guidelines” for seamless integration of grid-forming technologies.

The consortium’s name—the Universal Interoperability for Grid‐Forming Inverters (UNIFI) Consortium—aims to make clear that its goal is universal interoperability of inverter-based resources.

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