Energy Grants go to San Diego’s On-Ramp Wireless, “Smart Grid” Companies in Washington and New England

12/1/10Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego’s On-Ramp Wireless says it is among five companies to get more than $19 million in federal grants to develop innovations that are expected to make the nation’s power grid cleaner and more efficient, reliable, resilient, and responsive.

On-Ramp Wireless, which is among the companies presenting at Xconomy’s 5×5 event in Boston next Wednesday, specializes in low-power wireless networks that extend over large regions. The federal grants, announced before Thanksgiving by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, also went to projects in Washington, Massachusetts, Missouri, and North Carolina.

The Energy Department allotted more than $2.1 million to On-Ramp Wireless to develop a wireless sensor network, including faulted circuit indicator technology, which can monitor underground power distribution systems. On-Ramp says a monitoring system that is capable of reliably and securely reaching below-ground sensors would significantly reduce the time needed to isolate problems, make repairs, and restore service to consumers. On-Ramp will work with San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and Schweitzer Engineering Labs of Lake Zurich, IL, and Pullman, WA, to develop and demonstrate tools to enhance the reliability of distribution grids, improve system performance and maintenance, and enable future remote monitoring applications.

In a statement, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, “Developing smart grid technologies will give consumers choice and promote energy savings, increase energy efficiency, and foster the growth of renewable energy resources.”

The Energy Department said the grants are intended to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of smart grid technologies in three research areas: integrated modeling and analysis tools that can help automate distribution; advanced sensing, monitoring, and control technologies; and voltage regulation for renewable generation.

The Department awarded grants to two other projects in Xconomy cities:

A $6 million grant went to Areva T&D of Redmond, WA, for designing and testing technology for integrating small-scale sources of energy that are distributed throughout a region into the electric grid. The project is intended to develop models and analytical tools for seamlessly integrating distributed energy resources with smart meters, demand response systems, and advanced sensors, with a demonstration planned for a suburban distribution circuit near Charlotte, NC. Areva is working with the University of Washington, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA, Duke Energy, and the University of Connecticut.

The Energy Department awarded a $2.3 million grant to Varentec of North Andover, MA, to research and develop a wide range of next-generation power electronics devices to better integrate renewable resources. Using an innovative circuit design with an integrated battery energy storage system, the project’s goal is to deliver a fast response to rapid voltage changes arising from grid-connected renewable resources. A prototype and full-scale system will be tested at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Varentec also is working with Cree of Durham, NC, S&C Electric Co. of Franklin, WI, and New York’s Consolidated Edison.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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