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

September 2016

Read the latest ESI news from NREL.

Photo of researchers attending a technology demonstration in a laboratory

INTEGRATE Project Partner Demonstrates Clean Energy Interconnection Solution at the ESIF

On August 31, Smarter Grid Solutions demonstrated a new distributed energy resources (DER) software control platform that safely and reliably resolves grid constraints and performs real-time coordinated control of DER on smart distribution circuits, as part of the INTEGRATE project being managed by NREL. The active network management platform was successfully demonstrated using power-hardware-in-the-loop (PHIL) techniques at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) at NREL, showing how the platform can be used by utilities across North America to manage constraints above static grid hosting capacity limits and increase the amount of DER being integrated across their networks. Learn more about the Smarter Grid Solutions project.

UL Updates Smart Inverter Standard with the Help of NREL Researchers

UL, a global independent safety science company, released the latest "Smart Inverter" standard for inverters (UL 1741SA) in early September 2016. This highly anticipated standard provides a certification method for smart inverter functionality and will help reduce barriers to photovoltaic (PV) system deployment. Traditional utility interconnections require distributed generation (DG) devices to disconnect from the grid during grid disturbances—but by doing so, they can contribute to the problem. Smart inverters allow DG devices to stay connected to the grid for at least for a short period during disturbances to try to maintain grid stability and help avoid a power outage.

NREL researchers supported this extensive revision by providing a series of draft test procedures, attending many online meetings, and providing comments and suggestions for the final draft. NREL provided key test data that had significant impact on how the new anti-islanding tests account for DG-based grid support functions. NREL researchers also performed critical early tests at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) using the UL 1741SA test procedures in order to help validate the standard, and effectively "tested the tests" to verify their repeatability and effectiveness.

The new UL 1741SA standard has been immediately adopted by California Rule 21 developers and utilities. Other utilities have also been waiting to adopt this standard for broad application, including companies in Arizona, Hawaii, and other states. Learn more about NREL's advanced inverter research.

NREL Computational Science Center to Lead Exascale Computing Project

NREL's Computational Science Center, which manages the petascale Peregrine supercomputer at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (which can perform more than a million billion calculations per second), will contribute to four projects under the Energy Department's Exascale Computing Project (ECP). The project is gearing up U.S. computational capabilities to prepare for the next generation of supercomputers, aiming for speeds 1,000 times faster than Peregrine can currently achieve.

NREL will lead one project to model the three-dimensional wind flow through a realistic wind farm, consisting of 100 or more megawatt-scale wind turbines within a 10 kilometer-by-10 kilometer area with complex terrain, requiring simulations with about 100 billion grid points. The approach will be to run more limited simulations on today's petascale systems, like Peregrine, while validating the accuracy and demonstrating that the software can be ramped up to the exascale. NREL is also contributing to three projects related to combustion science, urban systems, and power grid dynamics. See the NREL press release.

Siemens, OMNETRIC Group Field-Test New Software Technologies for INTEGRATE Project

Siemens and the OMNETRIC Group recently installed and tested new software technology in a Duke Energy microgrid test site to support the INTEGRATE project, which aims to resolve limitations utilities face when integrating renewable energy sources into the grid. A lack of common standards had led to difficulties in the communication and interoperation of renewables within the complex, multi-vendor operating systems used by today's utilities.

To address this issue, the OMNETRIC Group has developed and verified the technical feasibility of a new interoperability reference architecture called the Open Field Message Bus (OpenFMB) framework. This solution is integrated with Siemens' Microgrid Management Software to allow Duke Energy to forecast weather and load behavior. This in turn enables the OpenFMB distributed applications on the microgrid test site to locally optimize renewable energy resources and battery storage. The approach should make renewable integration with legacy systems easier, faster, and more manageable. See the Siemens press release.

NREL Provides Its Annual Update of the Cost and Performance of Electricity Generation Technologies

NREL has released its 2016 Annual Technology Baseline, which provides updated data for the cost and performance of utility-scale renewable and conventional energy technologies. In addition, this year's version includes cost and performance data for residential and commercial rooftop PV systems. Now in its second year, the Annual Technology Baseline includes a range of projections for electricity generation technologies, including wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear power, as well as hydropower, coal, and natural gas. See the NREL press release and the 2016 Annual Technology Baseline.

ESIF Systems Performance Laboratory Targets Smarter Homes and Buildings

Our homes are changing as new connected appliances, distributed generation, energy storage devices, and home energy management systems offer opportunities to create "smart homes" that respond better to environmental changes and optimize their use of electricity—and the same changes are happening in commercial buildings. But how will these homes and buildings interact with the power grid, particularly as grid operations become more dynamic? The Energy Systems Integration Facility's (ESIF's) Systems Performance Laboratory can answer such questions, providing all the equipment one might find in a smart building in a controlled laboratory environment, connected to either an actual or simulated power grid. Learn more from our new fact sheet, or view our YouTube video.

Want to know more about the ESIF in general? If you think "Peregrine" is just a type of falcon, maybe you should check out our new ESIF brochure.

NREL Collaborates with IBM to Improve Solar Power Forecasting Accuracy

NREL researchers have collaborated with IBM, Northeastern University, ISO-New England, and other partners to improve the accuracy of solar power forecasting. The project, known as Watt-sun, used IBM's Watson (get it?) deep-learning technology to assimilate weather forecasting data from a large number of numerical weather prediction models, and improved the accuracy of solar power forecasts by more than 30% from the best individual models. NREL led the development of the forecasting metrics, as well as forecasting baseline and target values. In addition, NREL studied the economic impact of the forecasting improvements on the ISO-New England system, showing the economic savings that would result at increased rates of solar penetration. Learn more about NREL's forecasting capabilities.

NREL Power Systems Engineer Holds Webinar for NYSERDA—and You

Benjamin Kroposki, director of the Power Systems Engineering Center at NREL, recently gave a webinar for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) titled "Prevention of Unintentional Islands in Power Systems with Distributed Resources." The webinar focused on the possibility of distributed power sources keeping a part of the power grid energized during power outages, forming an "island" of power, which can be hazardous to utility repair crews. Although anti-islanding features are included in all modern power inverters, these features rely on detecting the grid failure—which can be masked by other nearby distributed power sources.

Kroposki's presentation covers the following topics:

  • Types of islands in power systems with distributed resources
  • Issues with unintentional islanding and how to protect against it
  • Standard testing for unintentional islanding
  • Advanced testing of inverters for anti-islanding functionality
  • Probability of unintentional islanding and the future of anti-islanding protection.

Watch the full webinar.

Four ESI Researchers Receive Outstanding Mentor Awards

NREL's annual ceremony for outstanding mentors of interns and postdoctoral researchers was held August 30 to recognize the impact these mentors have made on the laboratory's young researchers. NREL Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology Peter Green presented the awards to this year's winners, which include four researchers from NREL's ESI program: Andy Clifton, Brian Johnson, Bill Kramer, and YC Zhang.

Multiple ESI Projects Receive NREL LDRD Funding for Fiscal Year 2017

Several innovative projects proposed by NREL ESI researchers have gained funding for fiscal year 2017. The funds come from NREL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program, which was established by the Energy Department to provide NREL with some flexibility to direct funding toward projects that may not fit into the laboratory's current research efforts. These projects may aim to provide initial data or proof of concept on innovative ideas, position NREL for new or continued leadership in existing Energy Department programs, or establish or reposition a unique institutional capability that will give NREL a role in new programs or initiatives.

The ESI-focused research projects receiving funding include:

  • Optimizing renewable energy use at both the building and neighborhood level, led by Ben Polly
  • Distributed system planning under uncertain distributed energy futures using adaptive dynamic programming, led by Bryan Palmintier
  • Achieving reliability and optimizing the economics of a PV-dominant distribution system by using distributed inverter controllers, led by Emiliano Dall'Anese
  • Distributed optimization and control of smart multi-energy districts, also led by Dall'Anese
  • A smart home hardware-in-the-loop testbed, led by Annabelle Pratt.

NREL's Groundbreaking ERGIS Report Garners Widespread Attention

NREL's Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study (ERGIS), the first to model the entire Eastern Interconnection at 5-minute intervals for a full year, has been drawing much-deserved attention from all corners of the internet, particularly among the technical crowd. In recent weeks, the study has been covered such outlets as Vox, North American Windpower magazine, Transmission & Distribution World, and Greentech Media.

Read up on Our Research: Recent NREL ESI Publications