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Energy Systems Integration News

April 2014

Photo of two men working behind a long table lined with computers and monitors. Two large monitors display data on the wall above.

The one-of-a-kind Energy Systems Integration Facility has been named 2014 Laboratory of the Year by R&D Magazine.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

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


ESIF Named 2014 Lab of the Year

The editors of R&D Magazine have named the Energy Department's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) as the 2014 Laboratory of the Year. The ESIF was lauded with this prestigious international award for being a first-of-its-kind research user facility that uniquely merges three very specialized components: an ultra-energy efficient workplace that consumes 74% less energy than the national average for office buildings, one of the world's most energy-efficient high performance computing (HPC) data centers, and sophisticated high-bay laboratory spaces with outdoor test areas.

Research at the ESIF transforms how the nation generates, delivers, and uses energy by modernizing the interplay between energy sources, infrastructure, and data. Only in its first year of operation, strides are already being made at the ESIF to advance clean energy technologies and grid integration. NREL and its partners are using state-of-the-art capabilities to develop advanced photovoltaic (PV) inverter technology, HPC cooling systems, microgrid controls, plug-in electric vehicles, and hybrid power systems.

The ESIF is the second laboratory on the NREL campus to receive this honor in the 48-year history of the award. Check out Building Design & Construction's new ESIF slideshow and learn more about the one-of-a-kind facility.

NREL ESI Director Explains ESI in POWER Magazine

NREL Associate Laboratory Director for ESI Bryan Hannegan has authored a new article in POWER magazine describing how ESI will change the way we generate, deliver, and use energy—and the lab's leading role in this global effort.

In "Energy Systems Integration: Innovative Solutions for an Integrated World," Hannegan explains ESI as a comprehensive strategy that brings together many energy carriers, such as electricity, fuels, heating, and cooling, and adds other infrastructures, such as water and transportation, to bring about new, more sustainable solutions for energy generation, delivery, and use. NREL is leading a worldwide conversation on ESI research, spearheading innovations that focus on the optimization of our entire energy system—and bringing to the table the Energy Systems Integration Facility, which offers industry partners a place to research new ESI technologies in an environment that is friendly to exploration.

April 24 Webinar on Active Power Controls for Wind

Join NREL and industry partners to discuss how wind power plants can support grid reliability by providing various forms of active power control. NREL, along with General Electric and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, will host the webinar "Active Power Control of Wind Turbines Can Improve Reliability" at 1–2 p.m. MDT on April 24. Speakers will discuss the findings of a recent NREL report focusing on system reliability, economics, control design, and machine loading impacts of various forms of active power control from wind power plants.

Register now.

NREL Driving Research on Hydrogen Fuel Cells

As fuel cell cars get ready for the road, industry is turning to NREL for help improving cost and reliability. A recent NREL news feature highlights the lab's current efforts in hydrogen fuel cell R&D, as researchers work with auto manufacturers, component vendors, and others to take a hard look at both the infrastructure and the cost challenges that must be addressed before these vehicles can hit the streets.

The Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) includes 7,000 square feet of lab space built for hydrogen and fuel cell research—along with a hydrogen refueling robot that mimics vehicle fill-up to test the long-term durability of hydrogen hoses.

Learn more about the ESIF's capabilities and NREL's hydrogen and fuel cell research.

NREL Researchers Lead Development of World Reference for Infrared Measurements

NREL has developed two new radiometers to establish a world reference for calibrating pyrgeometers with traceability to SI units. The Absolute Cavity Pyrgeometer (ACP) and InfrarRed Integrating Sphere radiometer Radiometer (IRIS) are un-windowed with negligible spectral dependence, and traceable to SI units through the International Temperature Scale of 1990. The second of two outdoor comparisons between the two designs was held from September 30, 2013 to October 11, 2013 at the Physikalisch-Metorologisches Observatorium Davos. The difference between the irradiance measured by ACP and that of the IRIS was within 1 W/m2. From the first and second comparisons, a difference of 4–6 W/m2 was observed between the irradiance measured by ACP and IRIS and that of the interim World Infrared Standard Group.

A recent presentation includes results from the first and second comparison in an effort to establish the world reference for pyrgeometer calibrations—a key deliverable for the World Meteorological Organization and the DOE Atmospheric System Research program.

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

Western Wind and Solar Integration Study Technical Review Committee Convenes

NREL hosted a technical review committee (TRC) meeting for the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study Phase 3 in February. About 30 people attended, including representatives from power system planners, operators, and reliability experts from the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), California Independent System Operators, Public Utilities of New Mexico, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Western Electricity Coordinating Council, Western Area Power Administration, and Tucson Electric Power; researchers from Sandia National Laboratories, the Electric Power Research Institute, and Iowa State University; and study team members from NREL, General Electric, and the Energy Department.

The primary objective of this study is to examine the frequency response and transient stability of the Western Interconnection with high levels of wind and solar generation. At this meeting, interim results were presented, and the TRC provided feedback and guidance for the next stage of the project. Topics included the four study scenarios (light spring and heavy summer, with and without high renewable penetration), frequency response to large generation outages, transient stability response to large transmission outages, and impact of load modeling and distributed generation on system performance. The remaining work will focus on further analysis of the simulations run to date, and additional sensitivity cases. The objective of this sensitivity case analysis is to define a band of potential responses, indicate general impact, and provide insight into specific dynamic performance questions raised by the TRC.

Read more about the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study.

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March ESI Seminar Explores Plug-and-Play Operation of Microgrids

Last month, NREL hosted a University of California Los Angeles researcher to share his work on plug-and-play microgrid controls. In Plug-and-Play Operation of Microgrids: Objectives and Strategies, Professor Florian Dörfler explores control strategies for microgrids to enable robust plug-and-play operation and maximum flexibility.

View more past ESI seminars.

ESI Around the World

President's 2015 Budget Proposal Makes Critical Investment in Grid Modernization

As part of his 2015 budget request, President Obama has called for a unified grid modernization strategy to address institutional and technological challenges to creating a more secure, resilient, and flexible future grid.

The budget proposal includes several cross-cutting program initiatives that tap the Energy Department's full capability to effectively and efficiently address the national energy, environmental, and security challenges, with a total of $314 million allocated to grid modernization efforts funded in various program offices and managed jointly.

U.S. Government Accountability Office Assesses Energy Infrastructure Risks

According to assessments by the National Research Council and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, U.S. energy infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to a range of climate change impacts. For example, a new report notes that electricity generation infrastructure, such as power plants, is vulnerable to severe weather or water shortages, which can interrupt operations. The report also notes that electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure, including power lines and substations, is also susceptible to severe weather and may be further stressed by rising demand for electricity as temperatures rise.

A number of measures exist to help reduce climate-related risks and adapt the nation's energy systems to weather and climate-related impacts. These options generally fall into two broad categories: hardening and resiliency. The report notes that the Energy Department and other key federal entities have begun to take steps to address these issues.

FERC Refines Bulk Electric System Definition to Bolster Reliability

A new Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) order clarifies that all forms of generation, including variable generation resources, are included in the bulk electric system.

Released on March 20, the FERC order makes further revisions to the definition of the bulk electric system to provide greater clarity, consistency, and improved reliability by focusing on core facilities that are necessary for operating the interconnected transmission network.

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Who's Who at the ESIF

Several Energy Industry Players Visit ESIF in March

A number of energy organizations visited NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) in March. The list of visitors includes:

  • American Public Transportation Association
  • Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC
  • Energy Technologies, Inc.
  • Electric Power Research Institute
  • General Electric
  • LG Korea
  • Rocky Mountain Institute
  • U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy
  • Volvo

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Next Up

NREL to Report on Value of Very-Short-Term Wind Power Forecasting in California

NREL transmission grid integration researchers recently completed a study for Lockheed Martin to examine the economic value of sub-hourly wind power forecasts in a California market. The study used the PLEXOS production cost modeling software to model the California independent system operator (CAISO) market in detail for two wind penetration scenarios based on the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study. The results indicate that the economic benefits are a very non-linear function of both wind power penetration and forecasting improvements. An NREL technical report on the project will be published in the near future.

Look for more information in an upcoming issue of Energy Systems Integration News.

NREL Collaborating with INL on Linking Nuclear and Renewable Energy Systems

NREL and Idaho National Laboratory have jointly developed a new white paper communicating the potential of combining nuclear and renewable energy systems into hybrid energy systems. In the most general sense, a renewable-nuclear hybrid energy system provides dynamic use of thermal and electrical energy on an industrial scale. An important feature of this type of hybrid energy system is that it can produce several products based on instantaneous demand, maximizing overall system performance and profitability. Systems such as these could provide the electricity balancing authority an additional option in their mission to balance generation and demand on the grid while increasing the overall capacity factor of generation. To develop nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems, detailed planning/road mapping, research, and development are needed. These activities will require the development of new tools and techniques that can be utilized to design, analyze, and optimize energy systems comprised of interacting, interdependent resources, infrastructures, and decision makers.

Look for a link to the paper in a future issue of Energy Systems Integration News.

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