ACEP and partners receive $6 million to help secure electric grids

Aerial image if two people walk in front of a large solar array
Amanda Byrd photo
ACEP’s Michelle Wilber and Cam Dolan walk in front of a 50-kilowatt solar array in Galena.

Yuri Bult-Ito

Communities hit hard by climate change in Alaska and elsewhere in the U.S. could benefit from a new research project aimed at improving their electric grids.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Center for Energy and Power and partners have received $6 million from the National Science Foundation to conduct the study.

The project aims to advance the nation’s “smart grid” — a planned nationwide network that uses information technology to deliver electricity efficiently and securely.

A secure electric grid is vital for the U.S., but more frequent and intense storms, flooding and temperature shifts, as well as cyberattacks, have been testing it.

The five-year project is named “STORM: Data-Driven Approaches for Secure Electric Grids in Communities Disproportionately Impacted by Climate Change.”

STORM will connect researchers and community members to study electrical grids and create tools to improve them. That will help make communities more resilient.

Daisy Huang, principal investigator of the project and associate professor at ACEP, will work with several Alaska communities. They include Kotzebue, an innovator in wind-diesel and solar systems, Galena, a front-runner on alternative energy solutions, and Cordova, a leader in renewable energy infrastructure development.

Huang will design microgrid and renewable energy projects. She said the project will involve “sustained community engagement toward productive research and workforce development.”

ACEP’s Dayne Broderson, a co-principal investigator, will create artificial grids that are more secure from cyberattacks and that meet the needs of underserved areas in Alaska. The data will be made available through open-source software and data repositories.

Broderson noted that many of the community partners in Alaska are already pursuing community energy projects. 

Solar panels cover part of a wall on a building
Amanda Byrd photo
Sustainable Energy Galena Alaska’s biomass energy boiler building uses these solar panels to generate power.

“Partners in Galena, for example, recently finished creating a 3D map of their system that will help assess their grid. Working with them, we can learn what works and collaborate on new projects,” he said.

The University of Maine leads the STORM project. South Dakota State University and the University of Puerto Rico also participate.

Each university group will bring their own perspectives to the team. Together, they will develop approaches that can be employed at the national level.

“Establishing research infrastructure and educational frameworks means we will not just find specific solutions to specific challenges but will also open pathways to grow sustainable research infrastructure, while leveraging the tools of data science. And that is exciting,” Huang said.

STORM is funded by NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan announced the award in a news release Aug. 7.

“By addressing these critical challenges, and engaging with communities impacted by climate change, we have the potential to advance innovation and promote economic stability and recovery,” he said.

CONTACTS: Daisy Huang, principal investigator,, 907-474-5663; Dayne Broderson, co-principal investigator,