WARREN, OHIO — The BRITE Energy Innovators (BRITE) announced that it has been awarded $180,186 in funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to support its involvement with an innovative project, “Forming the Smart Grid Deployment Consortium (SGDC) and Expanding the HILLTOP+ Platform.”
The funding was made available through ARC’s Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE), which fosters regional economic transformation through multi-state collaboration.
BRITE will work alongside a team of universities and organizations led by Tennessee Tech University and including partners across Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Tennessee to develop and deploy smart grid modeling services through the SGDC project.
The project aims to assist rural electric utilities and energy tech startups in mitigating the risks associated with deploying these new technologies. The modeling services will be based on the HILLTOP+ microgrid simulation platform, originally prototyped by MIT-LL.
HILLTOP+ will be used to model and test new smart grid technologies in a virtual “safe space,” providing rural electric utilities with increased confidence in deploying smart grid technologies, including utility-scale battery storage. Energy tech startups will also benefit from HILLTOP+ grid modeling services, enabling them to develop and virtually test their smart grid hardware and software products for scalability and interoperability.
Three entrepreneurship centers, BRITE Energy Innovators, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and The Biz Foundry, are joining forces with Tennessee Tech to play a pivotal role in the ARISE grant. Their collaboration focuses on the entrepreneurial aspects of the project, with an emphasis on recruiting startups, innovative energy companies, utility districts, and energy stakeholders who can benefit from the simulator. The group will partner with industry leaders, including the Tennessee Valley Authority, Oak Ridge National Labs, LaunchTN, The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, Penn State University, and Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator, based in Knoxville. The program’s key components include a startup bootcamp, reverse-pitch events, mentorship programs, and establishing connections within the energy industry. The Tennessee Valley Authority will also contribute by providing access to its innovation and entrepreneurship programs, facilitating connections with entrepreneurs, suppliers, and rural distribution co-ops, and collaborating on hackathons and reverse-pitch events. This collective effort aims to foster innovation, support startups, and strengthen the energy ecosystem.
“This project is testament to the power of collaboration and innovation, and we look forward to working with our partners to drive positive change in the energy sector,” said Satish Mahajan, principal investigator for the project at Tennessee Tech. Tennessee Tech’s Center for Rural Innovation Director, Michael Aikens, added, “Together, we are taking significant steps towards a more sustainable and resilient future for the Appalachian region.”
Additional information about ARC’s ARISE funding opportunity for multi-state collaboration is available here.