The project, financed by the U.S. Department of Energy, will test the feasibility of integrating new power delivery technology in the power distribution system.
The three-year project is designed to foster power-grid independence and create a better balance of supply and demand by locating power generation at the place of use.
In the first part of the project, which started Monday, Rolls-Royce will test and evaluate its grid-interface technology at NextEnergy's microgrid in Detroit's Techtown. The second part will attempt to assess smaller, customer-based generation capabilities. Many businesses and enterprises have backup power generators ready to fill in during outages.
The third part will model and test a system called intentional islanding, which is considered an effective way to provide customers with uninterruptible power by creating smaller islands that can easily be powered by one delivery source or another. An area known as an island can be as small as a subdivision or a few commercial blocks; or as large as the northeastern grid that powers a multistate area.
"Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems is developing clean, cost effective, highly efficient, megawatt scale fuel cell systems for stationary power-generation applications," said Mark Fleiner, president of Rolls-Royce.
"DTE and NextEnergy offered us a unique opportunity to demonstrate novel technology against an electricity grid in a controlled environment, and we're pleased to be part of this important project."