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Dan Says

Leading Energy Systems Integration

A headshot of a man in a suit, smiling.

Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

This summer NREL will officially open the largest and most sophisticated laboratory in the U.S. dedicated to solving the complex problems associated with energy systems integration (ESI) on a national scale.

Our 185,000-square-foot Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) is designed to provide a focal point for scientists, engineers, equipment manufacturers, utilities, and policy makers to collaborate in transforming our energy systems to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), ESIF is an excellent example of the impact that federally-funded research can have on solving national problems beyond the scope of private investment. It also demonstrates the importance of a partnership approach between the federal government, industry, and academia.

The challenge of ESI is in optimizing energy system design and operation to achieve very high efficiencies, and to enable clean energy technologies to operate synergistically with other energy resources in systems of all scales.

According to the Renewable Electricity Futures 2050 (REF) report recently published by NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis Center, it is quite possible for renewable energy technologies to become the primary source of electrical power in the U.S. over the next several decades, but this will require a much more flexible and reliable electric grid.

Our existing grid infrastructure was not designed to accommodate an increasing percentage of electricity generated from renewable energy sources. Nor was it designed around a growing fleet of electric vehicles which draw power from the grid. Similarly, our fuels production and delivery systems are not adequate for the increasing variety of alternative fuels that exist today and will continue to emerge.

We need to develop new approaches to optimize the performance of systems within and across our major energy networks—from electricity to fuels to thermal transport—to make the most efficient use of our nation's energy resources while ensuring reliable and secure operations.

With NREL's 35-year focus on developing competitive renewable energy and efficiency technologies, it's only natural that we take a leadership role in this next frontier of energy research.

NREL scientists, engineers, and analysts deeply understand the fundamental science and technologies underpinning major energy producing and consuming systems, as well as the transmission infrastructure and communications and data networks required to integrate these systems at all scales.

In this issue of Continuum, which is dedicated to ESI, you will learn more about this major NREL initiative. We have also highlighted the results of our REF study, provided information about the ESIF, and explained some of our latest advances in research and development.

ESI is a daunting challenge, but one which we are ready to embrace so that we can truly transform our energy systems to ensure a secure, clean, and economically prosperous future.

NREL Leads Energy Systems Integration

Issue 4

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