Researchers from the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Smart Grid Center will participate in a joint initiative between the U.S. Department of Energy and India's Ministry of Science and Technology to develop more reliable and affordable access to energy in the Asian country. 

To help support the U.S.-India Collaborative for Smart Distribution System with Storage initiative, the Department of Energy will award a $7.5 million grant for the five-year project, bringing its total funding to $30 million, along with the financial contributions from its Indian partners. The announcement came this week, just ahead of Monday's state visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mladen Kezunovic, director of the Smart Grid Center and Regents professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, said it is significant for the university to participate in the project for a number of reasons. 

Kezunovic said the project is particularly timely thanks to its focus on such topics as renewable energy sources and energy storage -- the latter of which, he said, could be a "game changer."

"With [energy] storage, it becomes much easier to control a system," Kezunovic said. "It will change everything once it penetrates to a larger scale [of use]."

Kezunovic said he, along with electrical and computer engineering department head Miroslav Begovic and regents professor Chanan Singh, will contribute to the project in three ways: Conducting reliability studies related to the deployment of methods, running studies using test beds located on the A&M campus and developing educational short courses to train industry members.  

DOE officials said the ultimate goal of the project is an energy distribution grid that is smarter, more resilient and more reliable.

In a statement, U.S. Energy Secretary and class of '72 Texas A&M graduate Rick Perry said the consortium of academic, public and private participants "demonstrates the U.S. and Indian commitments to ensuring access to affordable and reliable energy in both countries."

Perry added that "continued grid innovation will promote economic growth and energy security in the United States and India."

While India will receive the benefit of U.S. expertise through the partnership, DOE officials said American participants are expected to be able to learn from the country's existing efforts to modernize its power grid.

In addition to Texas A&M, more than a dozen other U.S. participants will contribute to the project, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Hawaii, the Snohomish County, Washington, Public Utility District, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, the National Rural Electrical Cooperative Association and more.

The U.S. team is led by Washington State University.

Although Texas A&M's part in the joint effort is relatively small -- Kezunovic said it will receive around 10 percent of the total funding allocated -- the connections it makes could also lead to future collaborations on separate projects.

"The collaborative aspect [of the project] is also very important because of the possible extension of these relationships in the future," Kezunovic said. "When you work together with so many companies, labs and universities, that develops a relationship that typically results in some other projects in the future."

DOE officials said the project is part of a larger effort to jointly promote clean energy research between the two nations, dating back to the 2009 establishment of the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy.

The TEES Smart Grid Center was created by the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents in 2012 to be a hub for research focused on helping to shape the vision of a smart grid, conducting research on the technologies and systems needed to achieve an integrated grid, and training students and industry professionals in both new and existing concepts and technologies.

To learn more about the center, visit smartgridcenter.tamu.edu.

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