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Energy Systems Integration News

January 2015

Photo of two men pointing to a computer screen in a laboratory.

NREL and partner Raytheon perform system-level testing on the Miramar ZnBr Flow Battery Simulated Microgrid in the Energy Storage Lab at the Energy Systems Integration Facility. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

Happy new year, and 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.

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In This Issue


NREL Helps Spur Solar Installations in Hawaii

To gain a better understanding about how solar power systems interact with utility distribution systems and enable more homes with solar to connect to the grid safely, NREL and SolarCitythe nation's largest solar power providerrecently teamed up in collaboration with Hawaiian Electric to analyze high-penetration solar scenarios and address operational issues using advanced computer modeling. At the Energy Systems Integration Facility, Hawaiian Electric and SolarCity are testing advanced inverters that convert the direct-current power of the solar panels into the alternating current used by the power grid.

Read more at Energy.govand learn more about the impact of this work in a recent article in Pacific Business News.

ESIF Data Center Garners 2014 DOE Sustainability Award

The ultra-efficient data center in the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with a 2014 Sustainability Award for its novel approach to energy reduction.

The ultra-efficient ESIF data center features a chiller-less design, warm-water liquid cooling, an annual average power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.06, and waste heat capture and reusemaking it the world's most energy-efficient data center. NREL's holistic "chips to bricks" approach to sustainability integrates the data center into the facility, ensuring that the computer systems and data center have a symbiotic relationship with the ESIF's mechanical systems, rather than trying to optimize each in isolation.

Key to the approach was collaboration with Hewlett-Packard (HP) on the development of a new, warm-water-cooled supercomputerthe 2014 R&D 100 award-winning HP Apollo 8000 System. This system utilizes 75F water for cooling, which allows the NREL data center to employ highly energy-efficient evaporative cooling towers, eliminating the need for much more expensive and more energy-demanding mechanical chillersand saving both capital and operating expenses. NREL's holistic approach to data center sustainability demonstrates technologies that save energy and water, reduce CO2 emissions, and capture and reuse waste heat.

Get more information on high-performance computing at NREL.

Visit NREL at DistribuTECH 2015 and ARPA-E Next Month

NREL ESI staff will be hosting booths at two conferences in February. Come visit to learn more about what's happening in ESI at NREL.

  • DistribuTECH 2015: February 25 in San Diego, California
  • ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit: February 911 in Washington, D.C.

NREL Hosts Utility Interconnection Training in Phoenix

Last month, NREL and Arizona State University (ASU) provided a three-day workshop in Phoenix to Arizona Public Service (APS) employees on high-penetration solar interconnection and cost-benefit analysis tools.

This workshop was intended to educate APS staff to understand and exercise the NREL- and ASU-developed tools using example case studies and guided in-class exercises. This activity is part of a project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop methods, tools, and processes to ensure reliability, stability, and the safe operation of distribution feeders when photovoltaic generation levels reach or exceed 30% of the total load. Project partners include NREL, APS, ASU, GE Global Research, and ViaSol Energy Solutions, LLC.

Learn more about NREL's work in distributed energy systems integration.

ERGIS Meeting Analyzes Data from Renewable Energy Integration Study

In December 2014, NREL's Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study (ERGIS) team worked with more than 20 industry representatives to analyze initial results from the largest renewable energy integration study ever conducted.

ERGIS is a multi-year, multi-program-funded project aimed at understanding the operational impacts of high penetrations of wind and solar generation on the Eastern Interconnection. A critical component of understanding these impacts is the creation of a model that can accurately simulate power system operations under a variety of future scenarios. As part of this project, NREL also developed the only existing model that can simulate the entire Eastern Interconnection, which is the largest power system in the world, at a 5-minute resolution with detailed generation and transmission representation. Using advanced high-performance computing tools with the Energy System Integration Facility's Peregrine computing cluster, the research team was able to dramatically increase the modeling resolution while simultaneously reducing computation time from more than 200 days to less than 10 days.

ESIF Successfully Launches New Streamlined User Onboarding Process

Users of the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) can now complete required orientation online in order to receive a building access badge upon arrival at NRELsaving time and increasing project efficiency.

Previously, when a partner was scheduled to use the ESIF as part of a signed Technology Partnership Agreement(TPA), they would have to do so as a hosted vendor, or would have to go through a longer orientation processwhich consumed valuable time needed to conduct the technical aspects of their project. Both scenarios begged for a more efficient means of supporting users in completing laboratory work.

The new user onboarding process is a modified version of NREL's new employee orientation training that includes a new online ESIF orientation module. The streamlined process has been used for several recently badged partners, and all agree that the process has increased project efficiency.

So come onboardlearn more about working with NREL at the ESIF.

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ESI in the U.S. and Around the World

DOE Announces $25 Million to Improve Wind Forecasting

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $2.5 million for a new project to research the atmospheric processes that generate wind in mountain-valley regions. This in-depth research, conducted by Vaisala of Louisville, Colorado, will be used to improve the wind industry's weather models for short-term wind forecasts, especially for those issued less than 15 hours in advance. With access to better forecasts, wind energy plant operators and industry professionals can ensure wind turbines operate closer to maximum capacity, leading to lower energy costs for consumers.

Data collected during the project will be shared in near real-time with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and DOE's national laboratoriesincluding NRELand will be used to develop improved atmospheric simulations for the Weather Research and Forecasting model, a widely used weather prediction system.

Read more about the project on

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Who's Who at the ESIF

See Who Visited the ESIF in December

Several organizations visited NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) last month. Visitors included:

  • Denver Water
  • Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall
  • Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories
  • Secretary of Energy Advisory Board

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