Skip to main content

Energy Systems Integration News

April 2015

Photo of a man wearing 3D glasses pointing to a large 3D visualization display.

U.S. Senator Cory Gardner views 3D images of wind turbine turbulence in the Energy Systems Integration Facility Insight Center during a tour on April7. 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.

Have an item for the next issue of Energy Systems Integration News? Email us atesin@nrel.gov.

In This Issue

ESI at NREL

Featured Partnership: NREL + Raytheon

NREL has partnered with Raytheon Company, Primus Power, and Advanced Energy to successfully demonstrate an advanced microgrid system that draws on batteries and solar photovoltaic (PV) energy for its power.

PV inverter hardware-in the loop testing was conducted at NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) in December 2014, and included Raytheon's Intelligent Power and Energy Management (IPEM) controller together with generation, energy storage, and load simulators. Testing was conducted in both grid-connected and islanded operating modes.

The demonstration proved that an energy storage system-driven microgrid with conventional PV inverters can achieve 100% PV penetration while retaining the power quality needed to satisfy critical facility loads. This maximizes the amount of solar energy used and minimizes the need to rely upon conventional fuel-burning generatorsreducing operational costs, logistical burden, and carbon footprint.

The demonstration validated key component and system functions and control features that serve as the basis for a pilot system to be installed in mid-2015 at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Download the project fact sheet and get additional information from Raytheon in this press releaseand learn about how to partner with NREL on energy systems integration research.

NREL Teams with Southern California Gas to Launch First Power-to-Gas Project in U.S.

Southern California Gas Company has joined with NREL and the National Fuel Cell Research Center to launch demonstration projects to create and test a carbon-free, power-to-gas system for the first time ever in the United States. The technology converts electricity into gaseous energy and could provide North America with a large-scale, cost-effective solution for storing excess energy produced from renewable sources.

Using electrolyzer-based methods, the power-to-gas concept uses electricity from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power, to make carbon-free hydrogen gas by breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be converted to synthetic, renewable methane (traditional natural gas) and stored to meet future energy needs. It can also be used as a multi-purpose energy source for vehicles, micro-turbines, fuel cells or other equipment.

Learn more about this new project.

NREL and Partners Review Key Issues, Lessons Learned from U.S. Wind Integration Studies and Operating Practices

As a complement to the Energy Department's Wind Vision Report, a new paper by NREL and partners summarizes the lessons learned from some of the most relevant and comprehensive wind integration studies conducted during the past several years.

Review and Status of Wind Integration and Transmission in the United States: Key Issues and Lessons Learned includes a discussion about lessons from operating practices, especially as related to reserves, efficient operating practices, and wind power forecasting.

Read more about the paper and the Wind Vision Report.

Dr. Ben Kroposki Talks ESIF Capabilities to Smart Grid Today

Read the exclusive interview with NREL's Power Systems Engineering Center Director on the capabilities of the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF). The article is reprinted with permission on NREL.gov from the April 14, 2015 issue of Smart Grid Today.

Second AMETEK AC/DC High Power Source Coming to the ESIF

NREL has ordered a second AC/DC regenerative power source from AMETEK; when installed in parallel with existing California Instruments RS Series units at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), the new system will be the largest known AC grid simulator in the world with the bandwidth and modularity of the RS system.

NREL will use the AMETEK grid simulator as the power amplifier for megawatt-scale power-hardware-in-the-loop testing at the ESIF, which allows researchers and manufacturers to test new energy technologies at full power in real-time simulationssafely evaluating component and system performance and reliability before going to market.

Read more in AMETEK's press release.

NREL Joins SunSpec Alliance to Promote Open Information Standards for Distributed Energy

NREL is now a member of a trade alliance of developers, manufacturers, operators, and service providers pursuing information standards to enable "plug-and-play" system interoperability. SunSpec Alliance standards address most operational aspects of photovoltaic (PV), storage, and other distributed energy systems on residential, commercial and industrial scales, with the goals of reducing cost, promoting innovation, and accelerating industry growth. NREL joins more than 70 organizations in the SunSpec Alliance, including members from Europe, Asia, and North America.

One major area of focus for NREL as a member of the SunSpec Alliance is the standardization of "smart inverters." Today, there are several SunSpec-compliant smart inverters, and it is expected that most new smart inverters in the next few years will use the same SunSpec standards and protocols. Standardized inverter controls, communications, and functionality will likely reduce the overall costs of solar integration.

To learn more about NREL's role in the SunSpec Alliance, contact Michael Coddington.

ESIF, NWTC Controllable Grid Interface Data Interconnection Achieved

Teams at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) and the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) have successfully established the first real-time network link between the ESIF and the Controllable Grid Interface (CGI) at the NWTC. The two-way communication allows real-time exchange of the data generated at either end of the interconnection.

The NWTC's CGI is capable of emulating various grid disturbances and estimating impacts of generation response on the grid capabilities, allowing users to test, optimize, and visualize the grid integration-related performance of renewable energy technology before deployment in the field. In addition, the CGI provides hardware-in-the-loop capability combined with NWTC dynamometers, utility-scale solar generators, and energy storage components. Complementing this, the ESIF houses NREL's high-performance computer, which can do more than a quadrillion calculations per second as part of the world's most energy-efficient high performance computing data center.

This new capability expands NREL's grid integration research capabilities by allowing experiments across a greater variety of size, space, and time scales, involving a wider range of devices than was previously possible using either the NWTC or ESIF alone.

Learn more about NREL's grid simulation capabilities.

NREL Participates in U.S. Army Challenge to Develop Man-Portable Power System for Advanced Tactical Exoskeleton

Think Iron Man: NREL researchers are contributing technical expertise to the U.S. Army Special Operations COMmand (SOCOM) to develop the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS): a powered, armored human exoskeleton to be worn by U.S. soldiers during dangerous assault missions.

One of the biggest challenges of TALOS is the development of a power supply system that can provide enough power to drive a small car, but that can be carried comfortably in a backpack and trusted to work in an uncontrolled combat environment. SOCOM is hosting a "Grand Challenge" event to figure out how to power TALOS, and called upon NREL to provide some technical creativity. In March, Nathan Ainsworth, a researcher in NREL's Distributed Energy Systems Integration group, and Colton Heaps, an engineer in the Integrated Applications Center, met with TALOS engineers, soldiers from the Army's Advanced Warfare Training Center, and representatives from other government agencies to learn how TALOS works, what it is hoped to do, and what it requires from its power supply.

In early April, NREL experts in areas as diverse as grid integration, thermal modeling, and fuel cells met to brainstorm near-future viable approaches to build a power supply for TALOS. The resulting proposed approaches will be presented to SOCOM and representatives of other government agencies at a meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, next month. If the effort is successful, it may drive innovation in efficiencies and miniaturization of power systems and bring new work in "man-portable power" applications to NRELboth for TALOS and beyond.

Have an idea of how to power a super-powerful man-sized exoskeleton, or have questions about the project? Contact Nathan Ainsworth.

NREL Researchers Hold University Seminars on Control Methods for Renewable-Dominated Distribution Systems

Researchers in the NREL's Distributed Energy Systems Integration group, Dr. Emiliano Dall'Anese and Dr. James Cale, have given a series of seminars at major universities on recent technical findings in the field of system-theoretic distributed control methods for renewable energy power systems.

The motivation of this research is to overcome shortcomings in traditional control approaches that mirror legacy architectural frameworks in bulk power systems. NREL's vision is to set forth system-theoretic distribution system management frameworks that eliminate spatio-temporal hierarchies in real-time control and network-wide optimization. The research leverages contemporary advances in optimization and control theory to develop distributed schemes that dynamically steer the operating point of low-inertia energy resources and to solve pertinent network-optimization problems with limited message passing. The goal is to ensure that renewable system operation and control strategies are adaptable to changing ambient conditions and loads, and to enable seamless end-user participation without compromising system efficiency.

Recent technical findings were presented at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, Colorado State University, and Texas A&M University.

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

Back to Top

ESI in the U.S. and Around the World

Recap: iiESI Workshop Held in London Last Month

On March 3031, the International Institute for Energy Systems Integration (iiESI) held a workshop at Imperial College in London on research challenges in energy systems integration. iiESI is a community of scholars and practitioners from around the world engaged in developing an efficient global energy system. The institute will serve as a platform to facilitate information exchange and set research priorities, and will serve as a liaison among industry, policymakers, and researchers.

This 1.5-day meeting discussed several benefits for linking energy domains and identified several research challenges that a more coupled energy system could address, including virtual energy storage, transmission of bulk power, and operations of electricity grids with high levels of non-synchronous generation.

Stay tuned: a workshop summary will be posted shortly at iiESI.org. Watch for upcoming issues of Energy Systems Integration News for more iiESI updates.

Back to Top

Who's Who at the ESIF

See Who Visited the ESIF in March

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

  • BMNT Partners
  • Energy Storage Systems
  • GTI
  • Joint Institute For Strategic Energy Analysis
  • LG
  • Masdar Institute of Science & Technology
  • NREL Energy Execs Program Alumni
  • Odyne
  • Pace Controls
  • Southern California Gas
  • Swiss Energy
  • U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force
  • U.S. Department of Defense.

Back to Top