The Department of Energy (DOE) announced $43 million the Renewables Advancing Community Energy Resilience (RACER) funding program for 20 research projects that will focus on increasing communities’ resilience to disruptions from disasters. Through the Energyshed funding program, three projects will focus on building tools to help communities better evaluate and benefit from local energy resources. These projects will help communities secure their energy future and support the Biden administration’s goals of decarbonizing the electricity sector by 2035 and achieving a net-zero economy by 2050.
The work being done will be shared so that best practices can be replicated in communities across the country as they work to install clean energy and strengthen grid infrastructure.
“Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to giving local communities the tools to understand and make informed decisions about their own energy supply and needs,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “These critical projects will help deliver reliable, affordable energy to every pocket of America—strengthening the safety and resiliency of communities across the nation and improving the quality of life for Americans everywhere.”
Climate change has caused an increase in extreme weather events in recent years. According to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, the U.S. has sustained 15 climate disaster events in 2022 with losses exceeding $1 billion each. Overall, these events, including the recent hurricane in Puerto Rico. have cost $30 billion and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.
RACER seeks to enable communities to use solar and solar-plus-storage solutions to prevent disruptions in power caused by extreme weather and other events, and to rapidly restore electricity if the power goes down. The 20 projects selected will help with energy planning and develop and demonstrate resilient clean energy technologies. These projects will assist more than 30 diverse communities from California to Puerto Rico, and include partners from local and state governments, national labs, universities, and nonprofit organizations.
Examples of some projects are listed below:
- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley, Calif.): This project will develop a framework for protecting communities and increasing heat resilience among vulnerable populations in moderate climates. (Award Amount: $1 million)
- Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (Tallahassee, Fla.): This project will develop 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 restoration. (Award Amount: $3 million)
- Navajo Technical University (Crownpoint, N.M.): This project will develop 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. (Award Amount: $900,000)
- Wayne State University (Detroit, Mich.): This project will engage community members in Detroit and Pittsburgh to develop an open-source, open-access, community-centered distributed energy resource planning tool for energy and water resilience enhancement in urban areas. (Award Amount: $1 million)
- GE Research (Niskayuna, N.Y.): This project, which will be demonstrated in Puerto Rico, is developing rapid and automated power system restoration technologies for community grid resilience under extreme weather events using robust sensors and distributed solar-plus-storage. (Award Amount: $3 million)
The Energyshed funding program aims to build data-driven tools to help communities better understand their current and future energy supply and demand landscape. These three projects will develop tools to empower communities to evaluate the impacts and benefits of locally generated energy ($10 million):
- University of Vermont (Burlington, V.T.): This project aims to identify the specific energy demand, energy supply, and other priority community needs in three rural areas of Vermont and use that data to develop a tool that will help local leaders make better informed decisions about their energy transition to a more just and resilient system powered by distributed renewable generation. (Award Amount: $4.3 million)
- Launch Alaska (Anchorage, Alaska): This project will combine and streamline existing tools and use them to gain consensus for three priority large scale local energy projects in collaboration with Alaska communities, regional Native corporations, and others. Lessons learned will increase access to renewable energy and help relieve high energy costs. (Award Amount: $3.4 million)
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Ga.): This project will create a new metropolitan energy planning process to evaluate the social, economic, equity, as well as technical impacts of various future energy scenarios within the Atlanta area. The team will develop modeling tools that combine technical energy data with key inputs from diverse communities. (Award Amount: $2.3 million)
Both funding programs support President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to ensure that the clean energy economy benefits all Americans, especially those in underserved communities and in areas vulnerable to extreme weather. By sharing best practices from these research projects, DOE aims to enable communities across the country to learn from the findings and develop a tailored approach to meet their own energy needs.
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