New tech brings resilience to small-town hydropower

July 21, 2023

By INL Media Relations

FELT, Idaho Idaho National Laboratory (INL) celebrated the ribboncutting of its new Microgrid in a Box, which was deployed in partnership with the Fall River Electric Cooperative at its hydropower plant in rural Idaho. Using newly developed technologies, INL researchers demonstrated how hydropower with advanced controls and use of a mobile microgrid, can enable small communities to maintain critical services during emergencies. At the ribboncutting, power from the Microgrid in a Box simulated a critical load, while the team showed how the hydropower plant could be used to restore the grid after a simulated electrical grid blackout in a process called a “blackstart.”

Felt Hydro
Fall River Electric Cooperative Hydropower Plant on the Teton River near Felt, Idaho.

The new technologies showcased, developed by INL and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office, demonstrate how communities with similar resources can maintain critical services during blackout emergencies.  

“There are hundreds of hydropower plants like this one serving small communities across the country,” said Thomas Mosier, INL’s Energy Systems Group lead. “What we’ve demonstrated are new technologies that can enable these communities to use the hydropower resources they already have to restart and maintain stable power to essential services, even during an emergency event.”

Nearly 70 people attended the event, representing utilities, government agencies and industry from across the country. 

What is the Microgrid in a Box?   

The Relocatable Resiliency Alternative Power Improvement Distribution Microgrid in a Box, also known as RAPID MIB, is a portable, self-contained grid system developed by INL engineers in collaboration with private industry and government customers. It enables integration and optimization of multiple energy sources — such as hydropower, solar panels, wind turbines, diesel generators or even small nuclear reactors — to ensure a reliable and resilient power supply in remote or off-grid locations, or during emergency situations or power outages.  

Kurt Myers, INL’s Energy and Grid Systems Integration group lead, explains how the Microgrid in a Box functions.

“Restarting a grid isn’t as simple as flipping a switch,” said Kurt Myers, INL’s Energy and Grid Systems Integration group lead. “It requires a steady power input that many small utilities alone can’t provide. Combining the tech built in to the Microgrid in a Box with the existing capabilities of the Fall River plant, we’re showing how communities with limited resources can recover and continue to function during an emergency.”  

What is a Blackstart?  

Blackstart refers to the process of restarting and energizing power generation units, transmission lines and distribution systems to restore electricity supply after a blackout or widespread power disruption. 

INL continues to innovate approaches for efficiently recovering the power grid during these critical situations. This includes studying the resiliency and reliability of power systems, designing advanced control and communication systems, and testing new approaches to optimize the blackstart process. 

Supporting Rural Utilities  

Many rural communities have untapped energy resources that can enable them to maintain services, even during emergency events. INL, with support from the Water Power Technologies Office, is proud to partner with utilities like the Fall River Electric Cooperative to demonstrate and test these new technologies.  

Representatives from utilities, government and industry gathered from across the country for the Microgrid in a Box ribbon-cutting and blackstart demonstration.

Fall River Electric Cooperative is focused on investing in technology that can improve the lives of our owner-members and this partnership with INL is a prime example, said Fall River CEO Bryan Case.  The Microgrid in a Box test has accelerated our ability to deploy a hydropower and battery system to provide our members with electricity in the event of natural disasters or other local emergencies. 

Through research, analysis, simulations and real-world testing like the blackstart demonstrated at the ribbon-cutting event, INL is enhancing the ability of power utilities to recover from blackouts and minimize the impact on communities and critical infrastructure. 

About Fall River Electric
Fall River is a customer-owned, nonprofit electric utility with over 15,000 owner-members providing electrical service to portions of three states including Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Fall River is committed to safely and economically providing reliable energy and other services that bring value to its members. For more information visit

INL News Release
July 21, 2023  

Jon Rea, 208-419-6664, [email protected]
Sarah Neumann, 208-526-0490, [email protected]  


Related news

Follow Us!

About Idaho National Laboratory

Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, celebrating 75 years of scientific innovations in 2024. The laboratory performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. 

Follow us on social media: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and X.

Posted July 21, 2023

What People Are Reading

Idaho National Laboratory