MSL’s grid modernization technology accelerator, the X_GRID Acceleration Hub, has successfully completed its initial development phase with two critical milestones: MSL was awarded a seed planning grant from New Mexico Gas Company’s economic development fund, to support the initiative’s next stage of research and assessment; and the initiative has also formed a robust coalition of key regional stakeholders. X_GRID is designed to accelerate national efforts to improve grid resilience and sustainability, while creating a foundation for strategic economic development in New Mexico and the southwest, based on the region’s distinctive assets in the grid modernization arena. The current coalition partners are:
|El Paso Electric|
|Sandia National Laboratories|
|National Renewable Energy Laboratory|
|Los Alamos National Laboratory|
|University Of New Mexico|
|Public Service Company of NM (PNM)|
|Kit Carson Electric Cooperative|
|NM SMART Grid Center|
|Microgrid Systems Laboratory|
|NM Angels & NM Startup Factory|
|Santa Fe Business Incubator|
|Santa Fe Community College, Smart Grid Training Center|
Each will be represented on the X_GRID Steering Committee as we now advance to the next funded stage of research, analysis, and planning, and develop proposals for implementation funding.
In line with the urgency of the grid modernization challenge, substantial resources are being invested in R&D by the public, utility, and industry sectors. DOE’s Office of Electricity and Grid Modernization initiatives, the NSF-funded New Mexico SMART Grid Center, EPRI’s Integrated Grid initiative, and new technology introductions by industry incumbents and startups are making important progress.
But the difficulties of developing and deploying commercialized products are formidable, given the highly regulated and Balkanized nature of the industry, the premium placed on reliability, constraints on cost recovery, and lack of incentives for innovation. As stated in a recent report from Breakthrough Energy, Advancing the Landscape of Clean Energy Innovation:
“…even with our capacity to innovate, and even with the emergence of innumerable technological opportunities, there are significant challenges in moving forward with clean energy technology. These challenges arise from the sheer size and complexity of existing systems, the degree to which these systems are embedded in our economy, and the high public expectations of safety and reliability they must meet. Energy systems traditionally have evolved incrementally.”
There is a clear need for a specialized program, one that can translate R&D into practical applications and speed their adoption by utilities, at transformational — not incremental — scale.
X_GRID, an “Innovation Intermediary and Collaboration (IIC)” program, will be structured as a “hub” that facilitates multi-directional flows of IP, innovation, information, and resources through a network of committed organizations. In so doing it will serve to de-risk the commercialization process, and accelerate the path to market adoption. It will initially function as an overlay on existing assets in the energy technology and commercialization communities, with a strict focus on grid modernization.
The X_GRID network will be national in scope, with a Southwest regional focus, and its center in New Mexico to take advantage of the power systems research concentration in that state, including such key potential channel partners as Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories (both MSL Members) and the NM SMART Grid Center (an MSL affiliate), and the state’s technology testbeds. Colorado and Texas offer particularly strong regional synergies.
National nodes on the hub network may include: entrepreneurs; intrapreneurs (working inside utility and industry advanced technology groups); research and commercialization centers; energy incubators and accelerators; investment funds; utilities; and industry partners; and ultimately one or more entrepreneurs-in-residence with deep domain experience.
X_GRID will identify promising IP (at any stage capable of demonstrating commercial value, and from any point of origin), and craft customized maturation and acceleration pathways. It will offer generally applicable knowledge and processes for expediting technology commercialization and combine these general resources with highly specialized approaches to grid modernization challenges. Points of reference include the Cyclotron Road and ChainReactions programs in California and Illinois respectively.
Special resources could include access to testbeds and validation; access to capital versed in the unique requirements of this sector; relevant energy policy and regulatory expertise; a utility early-adopter network; open-source AI data training sets; and the potential for a dedicated investment fund. MSL is separately part of a proposal for the Midtown Campus development, and will seek opportunities for X_GRID to utilize advanced infrastructure there. X_GRID program design will also respond to other key gaps identified by stakeholders as part of the X_GRID design process.
Interested parties from all sectors are invited to contact the project director for more information, or to discuss participation in the initiative.