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APPA grant to fund research initiative tied to enhancing grid resilience

June 15, 2021

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
June 15, 2021

The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Energy Transition Institute (ETI) has been awarded a grant of more than $100,000 from the American Public Power Association’s (APPA) Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments (DEED) program to launch Project Groundwork, a research initiative that will explore electric distribution solutions to enhance grid resilience.

ETI is partnering on the effort with Groundwork Data, a non-profit research initiative focused on public infrastructure, as well as the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC), the joint action agency for municipal utilities in the Commonwealth.

Project Groundwork examines the costs and benefits of a set of innovative strategies for undergrounding utility lines in non-high-density cities.

These strategies include:

  • Sharing utility infrastructure between electricity and broadband;
  • Shifting underground utility infrastructure out of the road and into the public right-of-way;
  • Laying cable on existing surfaces and covering with cycling paths; and
  • Micro-trenching, horizontal drilling, and innovative wireless technologies to connect the network to individual homes and businesses.

The research team will construct a model that optimizes construction of new utility corridors on the basis of estimated cost and projected benefits, including enhanced reliability of electric service and access to broadband.

The team will then use this model to analyze investment scenarios based on mapping data from towns and cities across the U.S.

“Municipal utilities have a hundred-plus year track record of operational excellence as evidenced through providing the most affordable and reliable services across the country,” said Christopher Roy, general manager of Shrewsbury Electric and Cable Operations and a board member of DEED.

The project was awarded a DEED grant of $123,198 to develop the initial cost-benefit model.

“MMWEC is pleased to support this effort to better inform municipal utilities on the feasibility of undergrounding in their specific communities,” said MMWEC Chief Executive Officer Ronald DeCurzio in a statement. “The model being developed by the research team is expected to benefit municipal utilities across the country.” 

Additional information about ETI is available here.

To learn more about the DEED program, click here.

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