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Assistant professor Brian Johnson leads newly awarded $4.9M DOE grant to improve solar technologies

November 7, 2019

Brian Johnson portrait by UW FountainOn November 6, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would provide $128 million in funding for 75 projects intending to advance solar technologies through the Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2019 (SETO FY2019) funding program.  This program will provide $50 million for 15 research projects that aim to improve the ability of grid operators to integrate increasing amounts of solar generation onto the grid in a cost-effective, secure, resilient and reliable manner. ECE assistant professor Brian Johnson will be leading the grant for the University of Washington.

University of Washington

Project Name

A Scalable Control Architecture for 100% PV Penetration with Grid Forming Inverters

Project Summary

This project will develop two kinds of grid-forming controls: fast communication-free controls for inverters for solar-plus-storage systems, and slower controls that use a distributed communication architecture for system-wide energy management. These controls will be immune to communication outages and be compatible with small solar energy systems as well as the bulk power grid.


Enphase Energy, University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Electric Power Research Institute


Seattle, WA

DOE Award Amount

$4.9 million

Cost Share

$2.1 million

The Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2019 (SETO FY2019) funding program supports projects that will improve the affordability, reliability and performance of solar technologies on the national grid. This program funds projects that advance early-stage systems integration, photovoltaic (PV), and concentrating solar-thermal power technologies and reduce the non-hardware costs associated with installing solar energy systems.


Systems integration projects will better enable grid operators to add increasing amounts of solar generation onto the grid in a cost-effective, secure, resilient, and reliable manner. The three subtopics will focus on adaptive distribution protection, grid services from behind-the-meter solar and other distributed energy resources, and advanced PV controls and cybersecurity.


Projects in this funding program will address the technical challenges facing system operators to integrate higher penetration of solar generation. These projects will result in technologies that improve the protection distribution power system, enhance the visibility and control of PV inverters and plants, and realize the benefits of distributed PV to help supplement grid services while improving the security of those devices from cyberattacks.


Learn more about the SETO FY2019 funding program and the solar office’s other systems integration awards.