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Energy Systems Integration News

A monthly recap of the latest energy systems integration (ESI) developments at NREL and around the world.

June 2016

Read the latest ESI news from NREL.

WATCH: NREL Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study Redefines What's Possible for Renewables

In this video, NREL project manager Aaron Bloom introduces NREL's Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study (ERGIS) and high-performance computing capabilities, and new methodologies that allowed NREL to model operations of the Eastern Interconnection at unprecedented fidelity. Planned for release in August 2016, ERGIS shows that the Eastern Interconnection can balance the variability and uncertainty of wind and solar photovoltaics at a 5-minute level, for one simulated year.

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We're Hiring: Open Positions on NREL's ESI Staff

NREL's ESI program is looking for talented engineers and researchers to join our team. Open positions include:

Get the full list of job postings and learn more about working at NREL.

Virtual Oscillator Control Addresses a Potential Lack of Grid Inertia

As the world shifts to more inverter-based, distributed energy resources, the grid could lack the mechanical inertia needed to maintain the system frequency within its prescribed limits. To address this issue, NREL, the University of Minnesota, and the University of California Santa Barbara are examining virtual oscillator control (VOC) as a new strategy for inverters to help ensure the stability of the grid. VOC leverages the tendency of coupled oscillators to oscillate in unison, potentially providing a new way to achieve stability in both microgrids and large-scale grids.

See the NREL fact sheet on VOC to learn more about the project.

NREL's LDRD Funding Helps Tackle ESI Challenges

An NREL-funded research effort encompassing a dozen research projects is poised to yield new insights on grid integration.

The U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratories are allowed to direct a relatively small amount of their research funding toward unique and innovative research projects, each running for up to three years, that could maintain their vitality in relevant science and technology disciplines. This approach, called Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD), allows the national labs to act autonomously in directing their funds toward promising research, usually requesting internal research proposals that fit into certain key categories of importance to each national laboratory.

At NREL, one of these key categories is grid integration, and NREL's ESI researchers have a dozen LDRD projects running in fiscal year 2016. Two of the current projects are considered "transformational," which means they could establish or reposition NREL with a unique institutional capability. One of these is investigating computational steering and modeling using the Energy Systems Integration Facility's (ESIF's) Insight Center, a 3-D interactive display room that draws on real-time computations by NREL's high-performance computer, Peregrine. The second aims to address latency problems when simulations and hardware-in-the-loop are connected across long distances. When two simulations are connected across a large distance, even millisecond delays could put the simulations out of synch, ruining the results. Addressing this issue will enhance the ESIF's capabilities.

NREL is also funding 10 other projects, including:

  • Including demand-side management in grid integration models
  • Developing a Smart Home Test Bed, which relies on hardware-in-the-loop technologies and an Integrated Energy Systems Model (IESM) to model a smart home's performance
  • Designing distributed inverter controllers for a photovoltaic-dominant distribution system
  • Creating a renewable power plant that can supplement grid inertia, helping to maintain grid stability
  • Using grid optimization and informatics to achieve the optimal dispatch of inverter-based power supplies
  • Planning distribution systems under uncertain futures involving distributed energy resources using adaptive dynamic programming
  • Determining the optimal dispatch for frequency response batteries
  • Exploring the future electricity retail market, using future estimates to set locational marginal prices on distribution feeders
  • Examining an electricity market design for a future with high renewable energy penetrations
  • Developing a hybrid hard-soft materials matrix for a novel non-aqueous flow battery.

See the NREL feature article about the lab's LDRD program, which focuses in part on the Smart Home Test Bed and IESM project.

NREL Supports a Microgrid Installation at a Marine Corps Base in California

An NREL effort to improve the energy resiliency of a Marine Corps base near San Diego, California, is leading to an $18 million microgrid project. As noted in a recent article for NREL's Continuum Magazine, NREL started working with Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar in 2008 to address its net-zero energy potential, but focused more on energy resiliency after a blackout in 2011. While MCAS Miramar commissioned a small microgrid in December 2015 to power one building, the new microgrid will power about 100 buildings and should be completed within the next few years.

In addition, the online article discusses NREL's work with HECO and SolarCity to allow more solar on HECO's distribution feeders, and work to bring solar power to Alcatraz Island. NREL also recently published a success story on the Miramar project.

NREL Issues FY 2017 Open Call for HPC Resource Requests

NREL has issued its annual open call for requests to use the lab's high-performance computing (HPC) resources. NREL provides HPC and related capabilities to support the mission of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Research and development projects that are funded by EERE offices or aligned with the EERE mission are eligible to use these resources.

On behalf of EERE, NREL coordinates the allocation of its HPC resources each fiscal year. For fiscal year 2017 (FY17), the allocation period runs November 1, 2016, through October 31, 2017. Allocation requests are due August 1, 2016. Resources to be allocated include approximately 21 million node hours (nodes have 16 or 24 cores), 750 terabytes of shared data storage, and up to 1 petabyte of long-term data storage.

See the FY17 Allocations page of the NREL HPC website for more information.

NREL Resource Assessment Group Helps Deploy Solar in India

NREL's Resource Assessment and Forecasting group has been collaborating with India to enhance the quality and accuracy of India's solar resource maps and data to help developers and policymakers identify high-quality, bankable solar energy projects. The effort was noted in a recent White House press release on both nations' efforts to meet their goals on climate change, clean energy, energy security, and the environment. India's goal is to deploy 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022, and the United States announced on June 7 that U.S. renewable companies have committed to invest in 5.4 gigawatts of new renewable energy installations in India.

The announcement came as President Obama and India Prime Minister Modi were holding a bilateral meeting in our nation's capital. "In Paris, the joining of forces between India and the United States helped to forge a historic agreement that can effectively deal with climate change," said President Obama after the meeting. "And we discussed how we can as quickly as possible bring the Paris agreement into force, how we can make sure that the climate financing that's necessary for India to be able to embark on the bold vision for solar energy and clean energy that Prime Minister Modi has laid out can be accomplished."

This research collaboration was also highlighted in a recent U.S. Department of Energy blog.

DOE Highlights NREL's Grid Cybersecurity Efforts

A lot may come to mind when people think of NREL: wind power, solar power, biofuels, energy systems integration ... but cybersecurity? This is a relatively new arena for the lab, but in keeping with NREL's mission focus, its cybersecurity efforts are tightly focused on protecting the power grid. That's why a recent U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) blog zeroed in on NREL's Cyber Physical Systems Security and Resilience Center, which has built the Test Bed for Secure Distributed Grid Management.

Learn more about the lab's cybersecurity research.

NREL Research Finds Variable Generation Impacts Generator Revenue Sufficiency

NREL research has shown that growing penetrations of variable generation may present revenue sufficiency challenges for other types of generation that could lead to long-term reliability issues. These revenue sufficiency challenges can be marginally abated by increasing the penetration of wind and adding a new flexible reserve product. However, when a significant portion of the coal fleet is retired, the concern becomes resource adequacy. The study, "Wholesale electricity market design with increasing levels of renewable generation: Revenue sufficiency and long-term reliability," was published in The Electricity Journal in March 2016.

The project employed a production cost model that represented a simplified version of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas power system to examine the impacts of market behavior, fleet composition, and ancillary services on revenue sufficiency. The study assessed revenue sufficiency challenges by comparing the net revenues to the annualized investment cost of a new generator unit.

NREL Researcher Bethany Frew presented the study at the Utility Variable-Generation Integration Group (UVIG) Spring Technical Workshop, held in Sacramento, California, on April 2628. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Wind and Water Power Technologies Office and is a precursor to the soon-to-begin Grid Modernization project, led by Aaron Bloom, to evaluate the impact of evolving electric systems on grid reliability and revenue sufficiency. The full NREL project team included Giulia Gallo, Greg Brinkman, Michael Milligan, Kara Clark, and Aaron Bloom, with valuable feedback from Paul Denholm.

NREL Submits One of the Best IEEE Conference Papers on Planning, Operations, and Electricity Markets

An NREL paper, "Analyzing the Impacts of Increased Wind Power on Generation Revenue Sufficiency," has been named one of the best conference papers on Planning, Operations, & Electricity Markets for the upcoming IEEE Power & Energy General Meeting, to be held July 1721, 2016, in Boston, Massachusetts. The designation will earn the authors a presentation at a special "Best Conference Papers" session during the event. The paper was authored by NREL's Qin Wang, Hongyu Wu, Jin Tan, and Bri-Mathias Hodge, as well as Wanning Li from Iowa State University and Cheng Luo from the Midcontinent ISO.

Like the UVIG paper discussed in the previous story above, the new paper examines the impact of increasing penetrations of wind power on generation revenue sufficiency, specifically examining the payments that may be due to generators because of Revenue Sufficiency Guarantees (RSGs). The NREL researchers employed an 18-bus test system that was modeled with NREL's FESTIV (flexible energy scheduling tool for integrating variable generation). Similar to the UVIG study, the new paper found that RSG payments initially increased with wind penetration levels, then decreased slightly once wind penetration reached a certain value.

Catch Up on the Latest Journal Articles from NREL's ESI Researchers

Catch up on recently released peer-reviewed articles authored by NREL ESI staff:

Find more ESI publications.

Hannegan to Sit on Renewable Integration Panel at EIA Conference

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) will hold its 2016 Energy Conference on July 11 and 12 in Washington, D.C. This two-day event provides the opportunity to meet and network with energy analysts, decision makers, and EIA staff. This year's event will include a panel titled "Renewable energy and the transmission grid: Integrating renewable energy capacity into electric system operations," which will provide an update on the latest research and analysis in this area. NREL Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Systems Integration Bryan Hannegan will participate on the panel, which will be moderated by Sara Hoff of the EIA and will also include Robin Bedilion of the Electric Power Research Institute and Andrew Gohn of the American Wind Energy Association. For those attending, the panel will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12.

NREL Hosts Distributed Energy Resource Course for Engineers

NREL hosted the 2016 Summer Course for the FEEDER Consortium on May 31June 3. FEEDERFoundations for Engineering Education for Distributed Energy Resourcesis a consortium of eight universities, two national laboratories, eight utilities, and 11 industrial companies. Its primary mission is to significantly advance power systems engineering capability in the United States. The FEEDER Consortium is one of the four centers funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under its SunShot GEARED (Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment) program.

The weeklong course focused on integrating distributed and renewable energy systems into electric power systems. Course topics examined the various distributed energy and renewable technologies, power system planning, and power system operations. The course was taught by FEEDER faculty from participating universities and staff from NREL's Power Systems Engineering Center. See the FEEDER website for more information.

Watch Recent Webinars from NREL's Smart Grid Educational Series

NREL has kicked off a new series of webinars on smart grid-related topics featuring speakers from the lab and industrycheck out the recordings if you've missed any of the live presentations.