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July 2014

NREL-developed Tool "Best Place to Start" for Data-driven Energy Planning

A screenshot of the online State and Local Energy Data (SLED) Tool. A screenshot of the online State and Local Energy Data (SLED) Tool.

To help state and local decision makers make informed choices about their energy systems, DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy recently launched the NREL-developed State and Local Energy Data (SLED) Tool. SLED aggregates data and resources on energy generation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation, community planning, and makes it accessible by ZIP code and easily downloadable. SLED helps create a profile of local energy use and compares that to national averages to provide a robust baseline profile of energy use by locality. Erik Shambarger of the City of Milwaukee, an early user of SLED, says SLED "is the best place to start as you embark on any kind of data-driven planning process around energy." NREL's Sarah Booth managed development of SLED, which includes contributions from John Krueger, Devin Egan, Erica Augustine, Liz Doris, and Johanna Levene. Learn more about SLED in this informative video.

NREL Analysis Insights: U.S. West a Learning Laboratory for Renewable Development

The cover of the .

In the United States and around the world, electricity and transportation systems are increasingly powered by clean, renewable energy sources. These global trends are manifest in the U.S. West, where state and regional policies have changed the energy landscape and created a learning laboratory for renewable development and deployment. Realizing Clean Energy's Potential: Lessons Learned in the U.S. West, the premiere issue of NREL's new Analysis Insights periodical, pulls from NREL's large body of work focused on the region to shed light on potential for renewable energy in the U.S. West and beyond. Author: Debra Sandor.


NREL Modeling Breakthrough Makes Grid Simulations Faster

NREL's Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study (ERGIS) leveraged high performance capabilities developed by NREL to simulate the largest power system in the world at an unprecedented fidelity and resolution. Led by Aaron Bloom, Aaron Townsend, and David Palchak, the ERGIS project team utilized the high performance computing capabilities and Insight Visualization Center of NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility to gain new insights into the integration of high penetrations of wind and solar generation in the Eastern Interconnection. NREL can now simulate an entire year of Eastern Interconnection performance with a solve time of less than a week. These calculations previously took two months or more. The team presented initial findings at the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) WINDPOWER conference.

NREL Analysis and Analysts in the News

The Renewable Electricity Futures study (RE Futures) was mentioned in the Huffington Post's article "The Greatest Generation Redux."

Michael Woodhouse is commended for his work with Ted James on solar PV manufacturing cost analysis in Renewable Energy World's article "How A Little-used NREL Tool Could Have Saved the US Solar Industry $6 Billion."

In its May-June issue, EcoBuilding Pulse highlighted NREL's BEopt (Building Energy Optimization) energy and cost optimizing software in "BEopt for Efficiency."

GreenTechMedia refers to Jenny Heeter and Terry Nicholas's NREL report, Status and Trends in the U.S. Voluntary Green Power Market (2012 Data), in its article "Can Solar Compete in Retail Energy Choice Markets?"

"The investment by the Children's Investment Fund Foundation in the 21st Century Power Partnership builds off of our thought leadership in power sector transformation; it allows us to expand our technical assistance our international network of power system experts to strengthen and support Mexico's power sector."

Doug Arent quoted in Yahoo! Finance's article titled "Children's Investment Fund Foundation and 21st Century Power Partnership Team Up to Help Mexico Transform Its Power Sector."

Recent Publications

Journal Article: Advances in CSP Simulation Technology in the System Advisor Model
Authors: Aron Dobos, Ty Neises, and Michael Wagner

To date, the System Advisor Model (SAM) has utilized the general purpose commercial TRNSYS transient systems modeling software package for CSP simulations, but NREL has reformulated those into a new transient simulation framework written in C++. This framework is tailored specifically for use in SAM. Preliminary results show excellent matching with TRNSYS-based models, as well as an order of magnitude reduction in simulation time for certain models, which enables larger scale plant configuration analysis and grid-integration studies that require many thousands of simulations.

Journal Article: The Value of CSP with Thermal Energy Storage in the Western United States
Authors: Paul Denholm, Yih-Huei Wan, Marissa Hummon, and Mark Mehos

This study performs a series of simulations of the grid in the western United States to determine how a concentrating solar plant (CSP) plant with thermal energy storage (TES) might be dispatched when replacing conventional fossil fuel plants. It finds that TES adds value by timing CSP generation to periods when high marginal cost units would typically be generating. As a result, CSP with TES can avoid the least efficient generators and costly power plant starts.

NREL Report: Estimating the Value of Utility-Scale Solar Technologies in California Under a 40% Renewable Portfolio Standard
Authors: Jennie Jorgenson, Paul Denholm, and Mark Mehos

This report, part of a series examining the value of CSP with TES in the state of California, analyzes the value of both CSP-TES and utility-scale photovoltaics (PV), but with additional considerations. This work indicates that a large fraction of the value of CSP-TES appears to be derived from its ability to provide firm system capacity.

NREL Report: Geothermal Exploration Policy Mechanisms: Lessons for the United States from International Applications
Authors: Bethany Speer, Ryan Economy, Travis Lowder, Paul Schwabe, and Scott Regenthal

This report focuses on five of the policy types (drilling failure insurance, loan guarantees, subsidized loans, capital subsidies, and government-led exploration) most relevant to the U.S. market and political context for the exploration and confirmation of conventional hydrothermal (geothermal) resources in the United States. It assesses these policies in application in the United States and in other countries and regions, thereby offering policymakers a guide for drafting future geothermal support mechanisms for the exploration-drilling phase of geothermal development.

NREL Report: Beyond Renewable Portfolio Standards: An Assessment of Regional Supply and Demand Conditions Affecting the Future of Renewable Energy in the West
Authors: David Hurlbut, Joyce McLaren, and Rachel Gelman

This study assesses the outlook for utility-scale renewable energy development once western states have met their renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements and uses 2025 as a transition point on the timeline of RE development. Most western states appear to be on track to meet their final requirements, but final outcomes will depend on several factors including trends in the supply and price of natural gas, greenhouse gas and other environmental regulations, consumer preferences, technological breakthroughs, and future public policies and regulations.

NREL Report: Developing an Online Database of National and Sub-National Clean Energy Policies
Authors: Rusty Haynes, Shannon Cross, and Marc Heinemann, North Carolina Solar Center (NCSU); Sarah Booth, NREL

The authors, utilizing nearly two decades of experience with DSIRE, wrote this piece for a project team developing a similar database as an overview of many of the components that should be considered during the process.

Technical Report: Overview of Variable Renewable Energy Regulatory Issues: A Clean Energy Regulators Initiative Report
Authors: Mackay Miller and Sadie Cox

This CERI report introduces a summary of key regulatory issues associated with the deployment of renewable energy—particularly variable renewable energy (VRE) sources such wind and solar power. It draws upon the research and experiences from various international contexts and identifies important ideas from the growing body of VRE deployment experience and regulatory knowledge. This report aims to provide an empirical and technical grounding for substantive, procedural, and public interest issue-related questions as appropriate.

Presentation: Flexible Coal: An Example Evolution from Baseload to Peaking Plant
Authors: Jaquelin Cochran

A study with a CGS plant demonstrates that coal plants can become flexible resources. This flexibility requires limited hardware modifications, but extensive modifications to practice in operation. Replicating this experience elsewhere will likely require a higher level of forced outages than regulators and plant operators are accustomed to, but strategic maintenance can minimize the impact on outage rates. Cochran also presented these findings in a webinar.

Presentation: ReEDS Modeling of the President's 2020 U.S. Renewable Electricity Generation Goal
Authors: Owen Zinaman, Trieu Mai, Eric Lantz, Rachel Gelman, and Gian Porro

This analysis uses the Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) model, exploring a full range of future renewable deployment scenarios out to 2020 to assess progress and outlook toward the Obama Administration Goal to quadruple electricity generation from wind, solar and geothermal sources from 2008 levels by 2020. Under all modeled conditions, consisting of 21 scenarios, the Administration Goal is met.

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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) aims to provide credible, objective data and insights that inform policy and investment decisions as energy efficient and renewable energy technologies advance from concept to commercial application. NREL analysis encompasses a broad range of scientific research and reporting activity in support of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), NREL programs and initiatives, and the analysis community.