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Energy Systems Integration News

March 2014

Welcome to Energy Systems Integration News, NREL's monthly newsletter designed to keep industry partners, stakeholders, associations, and educational institutes up to date on the latest energy systems integration (ESI) developments at NREL and worldwide.

In This Issue


NREL Leads Demo of New Energy Management System at U.S. Naval Base

As part of a joint initiative between the U.S. Navy and the lab, NREL recently successfully demonstrated a new custom-engineered energy management system (EMS). An EMS is a robust monitoring and control system that can be augmented with energy storage. The new EMS design and control concept was developed by NREL staff and successfully demonstrated at a naval base in Hawaii. Key objectives of the technology included maximizing utilization of solar photovoltaic (PV) resources on the base while smoothing the effects of variable solar PV generation by charging and discharging batteries during transient clouding events.

EMS technologies like the one deployed in Hawaii can also be configured to provide other functions such as power factor correction, peak load demand shifting, frequency regulation, load management and demand response, voltage support, and uninterruptable power for grid failure ride-through. From a site-master planning perspective, an EMS could be integrated with infrastructure projects that include data acquisition, distribution system control, energy security, and diesel generator plant improvements—reducing fuel, emissions, and maintenance costs.

Learn more about NREL's work in distributed grid integration.

DOE Sustainability Award Goes to NREL for ESIF Data Center

The ultra-efficient high performance computing (HPC) data center at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) helped NREL earn a 2013 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Sustainability Award. The DOE Sustainability Awards recognize outstanding sustainability contributions to DOE operations. NREL was lauded for its leadership in green information technology (IT), including the lab's electronic stewardship practices and world-renowned HPC data centers.

The ESIF HPC data center was cited as one of NREL's "crowning IT achievements" and "a model for excellency in efficient computing data centers." Designed to be the world's most energy-efficient data center with a projected annualized average power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.06, the ESIF HPC data center features warm-water liquid cooling for its high-power computer components—so 90% of the computer waste heat is captured and reused as the primary heat source for the ESIF offices and laboratory space.

Get more information on HPC at the ESIF.

NREL Researcher Teams with IRENA to Guide Smart Grid Deployment

A collaborative paper shows how smart grid technologies and renewable energy can be mutually beneficial when integrated intelligently. NREL's Anderson Hoke collaborated with Dr. Paul Komor of the University of Colorado Boulder and Dr. Ruud Kempener of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to publish Smart Grids and Renewables: A Guide for Effective Deployment, which provides a technical overview of smart grid technologies as a way to accommodate larger shares of renewable energy in the electricity sector.

Of particular note, the working paper finds that:

  • Smart grid technologies are already deployed cost effectively in many instances today, enabling higher penetration of renewable energy sources.
  • Policies and regulations need to be developed for smart grids and renewable energy sources as soon as, if not before, large-scale deployment takes off.

The paper provides guidance to grid regulators, utilities, and policymakers on how to accelerate the deployment of smart grids for renewable energy. It provides a set of strategies to guide decision makers in the transition to a smarter grid, along with a comprehensive overview of the smart grid technologies available for the integration of renewable energy, including relatively high shares of variable sources such as solar and wind energy.

Find out more about NREL's smart grid research.

New Report Evaluates Radiometer Performance

NREL has analyzed the performance of various commercially available radiometers in obtaining accurate solar resource measurements. Evaluation of Radiometers Deployed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Solar Radiation Research Laboratory assesses 32 global horizontal irradiance (GHI) and 19 direct normal irradiance (DNI) radiometers, including pyranometers, pyrheliometers, rotating shadowband radiometers, and a pyranometer with fixed internal shading—all of which are deployed at NREL's Solar Radiation Research Laboratory. The radiometers studied were deployed for one year and are compared to measurements from radiometers with the lowest values of estimated measurement uncertainties for producing reference GHI and DNI values.

Learn more about NREL's resource assessment and forecasting research.

February ESI Seminars Focus on Infrastructure, Microgrid Stability

Experts visited NREL last month to share their research on energy infrastructure enhancements and microgrid system stability. Watch their presentations at the links below.

  • National Energy & Transportation Infrastructure Design: Dr. James McCalley, Harpole Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Iowa State University, describes several infrastructure enhancements for energy and transportations, illustrates the power of computational models for exploring the future, and characterizes different policy approaches for moving these enhancements forward.
  • Stability Analysis of Microgrid Systems: Professor David Gao and Dr. Yan Li of the University of Denver investigate the stability characteristics and optimal design of a microgrid using the matrix perturbation theory.

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ESI Around the World

Meeting Held to Discuss International Energy Systems Integration

A meeting of scholars, advisors, and practitioners from internationally leading laboratories, universities, and institutions took place in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss ways to ensure that investments in ESI are coordinated and optimized to yield the greatest value possible to the global community. Discussion topics included holding regular meetings to foster exchange of ideas, results, lessons learned, and best practices from ESI-related activities throughout the world and developing a framework for a potential future International Institute for Energy Systems Integration. For more information, contact: Mark O'Malley, Director, Electricity Research Centre, University College Dublin; Bryan Hannegan, Associate Director, NREL; or Jud Virden, Associate Director, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

DOE Offers $7 Million in Microgrid Funding

Looking for funding for advanced microgrid research? Under the "Microgrid Research, Development, and System Design" Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is offering up to $7 million to advance the design of technologies that help communities become more adaptive and prepared for power outages caused by severe weather and other events.

The FOA targets teams of communities, technology developers and providers, and utilities to develop advanced microgrid controllers and system designs that will help communities take an innovative and comprehensive approach to microgrid design and implementation. Each applicant will be required to work with an entity or community to design microgrid systems of 10 megawatts or less—enough to power a small community. Additionally, applicants will be encouraged to design systems that protect critical infrastructure such as hospitals and water treatment plants.

Applications are due April 28, 2014. See for complete details.

DOE Releases Tools to Help Organizations Strengthen Cybersecurity Capabilities

New tools from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will strengthen protection of the nation's oil and natural gas infrastructure and the electric grid from cyber attack. Released as part of a recently established public-private partnership to protect America's critical infrastructure, the new versions of the Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model—which help organizations assess their own cybersecurity capabilities and identify steps to help strengthen their defenses—include a version that can be used by industries outside of the energy sector.

Learn more about DOE's efforts to improve the security and resiliency of the nation's energy delivery system.

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Who's Who at the ESIF

January ESIF Visitors Include Industry, Academia

Several high-profile organizations visited NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) in January. The list of visitors includes:

  • Colorado Collaboratory
  • Colorado National Guard
  • Gas Technology Institute
  • Houze
  • Pacific Gas & Electric
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Stanford University
  • Toyota
  • Tri-State Board of Directors
  • U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force
  • Wave Solar

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Next Up

NREL to Demonstrate Utility-Scale PV Controls with First Solar

NREL has received a commitment from First Solar to collaborate in demonstrating advanced grid-friendly controls for solar photovoltaics (PV). First Solar has identified its 50-megawatt Barilla PV plant in west Texas as the optimal location for this testing, and the local utility and independent system operator have expressed interest in joining the collaboration. Look for more information in an upcoming issue of Energy Systems Integration News.

Upcoming Report Examines Value of Advanced Pumped Storage Hydropower

NREL will present new research on pumped storage hydropower (PSH) at the IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting in July. The paper, "Quantifying the Operational Benefits of Conventional and Advanced Pumped Storage Hydro on Reliability and Efficiency," utilizes the Flexible Energy Scheduling Tool for Integration of Variable Generation (FESTIV) model to investigate the benefits of PSH at multiple timescales. NREL found that, in general, in a system with substantial variable generation, PSH can potentially provide production cost savings as well as reliability improvements. Find out more in a future issue of Energy Systems Integration News.

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