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January 2012

NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility eNewsletter

Artist's rendering of the Energy Systems Integration Facility.

Artist's rendering of the ESIF.
Graphic courtesy of SmithGroupJJR

Welcome to the first quarterly issue of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Energy Systems Integration Facility eNewsletter.

The Energy Systems Integration Facility Workshop hosted by NREL in October 2011 brought together a wide range of energy stakeholders to learn about the capabilities of the facility's state-of-the-art laboratories and high performance computing center. In support of the workshop's goals, breakout sessions were held to engage participants in identifying top priority R&D needs in relation to large-scale grid integration of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies and determining how the advanced capabilities of the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) can help fill the R&D gaps.

Everyone agreed that the ESIF will be a valuable national asset for transforming our nation's energy systems and will provide a national focal point for systems integration R&D. We've created this newsletter to keep you informed on the development of the ESIF as it takes shape inside and out. Please feel free to pass it on to others that may have an interest in partnering with NREL at the ESIF.

In this Issue

Feature Articles

ESIF Tops Out

The ESIF celebrated a major milestone last week with a topping out ceremony.

The origin of celebrating the "topping out" of a new building cannot be precisely traced to any one culture; however, it is widely practiced amongst construction and ironworkers throughout the world. The celebration is held when the last beam is placed at the top of a building. All tradesmen on the job usually join in the celebration as well as the supervisors, representatives of the architecture and engineering firms, the owners or representatives of the building, donors, and any VIPs that are invited.

The Topping Out Party

Photo of workers in line for food at the topping out party.

Barbeque at the topping out party.

Photo of the evergreen tree on top of the under construction Energy Systems Integration Facility.

Evergreen at the top of the ESIF.

The topping out party, thrown by general contractor, JE Dunn Construction, and engineering firm, SmithGroupJJR, took place Friday, January 6, 2011 from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm. Outfitted in hardhats, safety vests, and safety goggles, nearly 400 celebrators lined up for a barbeque lunch served inside the ESIF in what will soon be the ESIF's Optical Characterization lab.

As part of the ceremony, speeches were made by Rod Merchant, JE Dunn Construction; Mike Medici and Mark Kranz, SmithGroupJJR; Jeff Baker, U.S. Department of Energy; and Bill Glover, Dan Arvizu, and Ben Kroposki, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Wrapping up the ceremony, Kevin O'Gara, JE Dunn Construction, presented quality and safety awards to several of the workers.

As tradition has it, an evergreen is placed on the top of the building as the last beam is hoisted up. For some, the evergreen symbolizes that the job went up without a loss of life, while for others it's a good luck charm for the future occupants. The tree will continue as a silent witness of the next stages of construction as the ESIF moves closer to substantial completion in late October 2012.

Utilities Look to the ESIF to Help Identify Optimal Utility Solutions with Greater Certainty

Critical to moving clean energy technologies onto the electrical grid is reliability of the complex integrated systems and devices of the electric power system. Being risk adverse, utilities have notoriously high standards for proven product performance and will wait for convincing field-tested demonstrations of reliability before investing. Utilities want to see a reliable working demonstration before deploying new infrastructure, but the system must first be deployed by the entrepreneur to demonstrate reliability. This demonstrated reliability requirement presents quite a predicament for utilities and energy stakeholders alike in that comprehensive utility-scale test demonstrations are not cost effective to build or readily available for field use.

Architectrual rendering of the Energy Systems Integration Facility.

Architectural 3D rendering of the ESIF.
Graphic courtesy of SmithGroupJJR

That's why utilities are looking to the ESIF to help identify optional utility solutions—with greater certainty and confidence—before major capital investments are made. The ESIF is the first significant U.S. DOE laboratory designed specifically to deal with integration issues at the scale required to meet utility reliability demonstration requirements. NREL's researchers will be able to configure electric systems the way they would appear in the field and operate them at the same level of power as the utility uses. Hardware used by utilities can also be "looped" into a simulation environment so new technologies can be evaluated for reliability and quality while operating in a combination of real world, real power, and simulated or virtual environments. While hardware-in-the-loop is not a new concept, adding megawatt-scale power takes it to another level.

Integrating Industry Sectors and Technologies

The prospect of renewables taking a greater share of the energy mix presents major challenges and opportunities for many industry sectors. From technology innovation to electric infrastructure deployment, energy systems integration innovation focuses on areas as diverse as:

  • Renewable energy and distributed generation
  • Grid optimization
  • Demand response and demand side management
  • Advanced utility control and metering
  • Energy storage systems
  • PHEV charging and V2G
  • Home automation and energy management systems
  • Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies

Research at the ESIF focuses on these integration issues with a particular focus on electric, thermal, and fuel systems. Hardware-in-the-loop at megawatt-scale power simulation capabilities at the facility provide a holistic view of the electric power system giving NREL and its partners the opportunity to evaluate how technologies will work together in a real world environment. It will be the place to do hardware-in-the-loop testing with low- to megawatt-scale power capability bringing research to the forefront of today's technology.

NREL recognizes the importance of working with a wide range of energy stakeholders that include, but are not limited to , utilities, system integrators, technology developers, state energy departments, state regulators, universities, standards organization certification labs, government agencies and other national laboratories. If you are interested in partnering with NREL's world-renowned integration experts at the ESIF, please contact Benjamin Kroposki.

Featured ESIF Lab

NREL's 182,500 sq. ft. Energy Systems Integration Facility will house 15 fully equipped state-of-the-art laboratories and several outdoor test areas. In each issue of NREL's Energy Systems Integration eNewsletter we will feature one or two laboratories to familiarize you with some of the capabilities the ESIF has to offer.

Power Systems Integration Laboratory

The Power Systems Integration Laboratory (PSIL) at the ESIF is the main lab for conducting electrical systems integration activities. Research in this lab will include exploring a variety of operating configurations including, grid connected stand-alone microgrids and hybrid power systems. The PSIL can accommodate large power system components that are too large to fit or transport into any of the other ESIF labs, such as photovoltaic inverters, diesel and natural gas generators, battery packs, and microgrid switches.

Photo of machinery on the roof of a building.

Microgrid testing at NREL's DERTF.

Low-voltage microgrid testing has been taking place at NREL's existing Distributed Energy Resources Test Facility for quite some time and has required the rental of large cooling equipment, significant water and natural gas plumbing, and installation of conditioned containers to house the components. The ESIF will expand NREL's microgrid testing capabilities to medium voltage and, in addition to being able to test large single components, the PSIL will be able to house complete microgrid systems consisting of rotating machines, power electronics, and battery packs.

Major equipment in the Power Systems Integration Laboratory include:

  • Real-time hardware-in-the-loop simulator
  • Grid simulator (MW level)
  • AC load banks (MW level)
  • Bidirectional DC supplies
  • Research chiller and boiler
  • SCADA Data Collection and Control System
  • Multiple research electrical bus connections
  • PV simulator

If you are interested in learning more about the PSIL, or any of the other state-of-the-art laboratories planned for the ESIF, please contact Benjamin Kroposki or visit NREL's ESIF webpage.

Construction Update

ESIF Fun Facts as of 1/6/2012

  • 663 tons of steel
  • Structural steel erection 100% complete
  • 9,250 cubic yards of concrete installed
  • Precast concrete construction complete
  • 1,290,000 pounds of rebar
  • Roughly 147,428 man hours to date
  • At three points above platinum certification
  • 94% of all construction waste diverted from the landfill