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To restart the grid after a blackout, grid operators must first turn on a conventional energy source, like a coal or natural gas plant, before they can add other energy sources, like solar and energy storage, to the grid. In the newly published Research Roadmap on Grid-Forming Inverters, researchers from National Laboratories, universities, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) outline a plan to use renewable energy to jump-start the grid by taking advantage of an essential piece of connection equipment known as an inverter.

Inverters provide the interface between the grid and energy sources like solar panels, wind turbines, and energy storage. When there is a large disturbance or outage on the grid, conventional inverters will shut off power to these energy sources and wait for a signal from the rest of the grid that the disturbance has settled and it is safe to restart—known as “grid-following.” As wind and solar account for increasing shares of the overall electricity supply, it is becoming impractical to depend on the rest of the grid to manage disturbances. Grid-forming inverters are an emerging technology that allows solar and other inverter-based energy sources to restart the grid independently.

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