Skip to main content

Energy Systems Integration Newsletter

January 2016

Read the latest energy systems integration (ESI) news from NREL.

Photo of two men standing in front of a visualization screen modeling the electric grid

Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

NREL to Co-Lead Energy Department's Grid Modernization Lab Consortium

On January 14, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz announced up to $220 million in new funding for a consortium of Energy Department national laboratories and partners to support critical research and development over the next three years to help modernize our nation's electrical power grid. Secretary Moniz also announced the release of the Department's comprehensive new Grid Modernization Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP), a blueprint for the Department's research, development, and demonstration agenda to enable a modernized grid. NREL will be strongly supporting this effort, bringing its unique array of experts and resources together to participate in 48 of the 88 awarded projects announced.

Some of the outcomes of these projects will include:

  • A national network of laboratory facilities for use in testing and validation of emerging grid-related technologies and systems
  • New common standards and test procedures to ensure that emerging grid technologies can communicate with one another and work together to provide energy services to customers
  • New decision support tools for integrated planning and operation of distributed energy technologies, such as solar, demand response, and smart consumer appliances
  • Advances in grid design and planning tools to take into account the increasing number of emerging technologies being deployed on the grid in homes, businesses, and communities
  • Optimal approaches for integration of wind turbines, solar PV systems, smart buildings, electric and fuel cell vehicles, and hydrogen technologies into a modernized grid
  • A new testbed for development of advanced distribution management systems that will allow grid operators to more effectively utilize grid assets, increase resilience and reliability, and enable a wider choice of energy services for consumers.

Read more about how NREL's experts and facilities will be key for developing and testing new technologies to modernize the grid through this new initiative.

We're Hiring: Open Positions on NREL's ESI Staff

NREL's ESI program is looking for talented engineers to join our team. Our open positions include:

Get the full list of job postings and learn more about working at NREL here.

Three New Partnerships to Leverage ESIF Capabilities

NREL will collaborate with the Hawaiian Electric Companies, Caterpillar, and Wyle Laboratories on three new projects at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF).

NREL + HECO: Building on an existing partnership, NREL's Power Systems Engineering Center staff will work with the Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) to test, model, and evaluate a select set of smart inverters for advanced functionality, including: voltage ride-through, frequency ride-through, ramping or ramp rate, soft-start reconnection, and voltage-watt control. NREL will conduct power hardware-in-the-loop simulations at the ESIF with the intent of emulating the Hawaiian island grid interactions with smart inverters. This work will help HECO understand the effect of new smart inverter functionality in order to deploy greater levels of photovoltaics (PV) on the Hawaiian grid.

NREL + Caterpillar: Under this new partnership agreement, NREL's Power Systems Engineering Center staff will work with Caterpillar Inc.'s Electric Power Division to upgrade a U.S. Navy microgrid powering a telecommunication site on the island of Guam. NREL will model and evaluate a variety of scenarios to test the microgrid that contains diesel gensets, battery energy storage systems, and a PV system. The battery and microgrid switch hardware will be installed and tested in the ESIF in the context of the larger microgrid system that will be simulated using the ESIF's grid simulation capabilities. This work will help Caterpillar and the U.S. Navy better understand how microgrids can integrate high levels of solar and provide increased customer reliability.

NREL + Wyle: Under an expansion of an existing partnership, NREL's Power Systems Engineering Center staff will work with Wyle Laboratories supporting the Army Rapid Equipping Force efforts to assess hybrid power systems by modifying the Consolidated Utility Base Energy (CUBE), a power electronic platform built by NREL that integrates PV, battery, and diesel generator sources to serve a common load. This phase of the project focuses on replacing the line frequency transformer with a high-frequency transformer to reduce size and weight and adding a flexible grid connection to leverage host nation grid power when available. This project will leverage the ESIF controller-in-the-loop and hardware testing capabilities to validate performance, and will ultimately demonstrate improved fuel savings for forward operating base and microgrid applications.

Learn more about our current partners and how you can work with us at the ESIF.

NREL Releases High-Pen PV Handbook for Distribution Engineers

As solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are increasingly installed throughout the country at utility scale, a new challenge is emerging: how to safely and effectively integrate greater amounts of variable solar generation onto the distribution grid without adverse impact on the system.

In collaboration with Southern California Edison, Quanta Technology, Satcon Technology Corporation, and Electrical Distribution Design, NREL researchers have produced a handbook to help distribution engineers understand and navigate the challenges of integrating high penetrations of PV into their service territories. Funding for this project was provided by the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative.

The High-Penetration PV Integration Handbook for Distribution Engineers presents the potential impacts of high-penetration PV integration, provides model-based analysis approaches for determining the level of PV impact, and suggests potential mitigation measures that could be taken to reduce PV impacts to distribution system engineers with a working knowledge of distribution systems planning and operations.

NREL, Partners Demonstrate First-of-a-Kind Use of Utility-Scale PV for Ancillary Services

NREL, AES, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, First Solar, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas have conducted a demonstration project on two utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) plants to test the viability of providing important grid ancillary services from these facilities. Testing was completed on two 20+ MW plants that demonstrated the ability of PV power plants to provide various types of new grid-friendly controls.

This demonstration showed how active power controls can leverage PV's value from being simply a variable energy resource to providing additional ancillary services that range from spinning reserves, load following, ramping, frequency response, variability smoothing and frequency regulation, to power quality. Specifically, the tests conducted included variability smoothing through automatic generation control, frequency regulation for fast response and droop response, and power quality.

More information can be found in the recently released report Advanced Grid-Friendly Controls Demonstration Project for Utility-Scale PV Power Plants.

Learn About NREL's New Cybersecurity Initiative

A new initiative underway at NREL intends to prevent hackers from gaining control of parts of the nation's power grid, potentially damaging electrical equipment and causing localized power outages.

The two-way communications technologies being added to the power grid work like an independent "electricity-only Internet" (sometimes using a cordoned-off part of the actual Internet) with access restricted to utilities—but just like the real Internet, these systems are subject to hacker attacks, and they need a strong cybersecurity system. That's why NREL established a strategic initiative for energy system cybersecurity and in March 2015 hired Erfan Ibrahim as director of the Cyber Physical Systems Security and Resilience Center, under NREL's ESI directorate.

Learn more about this new research program at the lab.

Visit NREL at DistribuTECH February 9-11 in Orlando

Attending DistribuTECH 2016? Stop by booth #929 at the event to learn how NREL's ESI team can partner with you to solve your biggest energy systems challenges.