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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.

October 2016

Read the latest ESI news from NREL.

Researchers look at control screens at the Energy Systems Integration Facility's main control room.

OMNETRIC Group Demonstrates a Distributed Control Hierarchy for Power Distribution Systems

OMNETRIC Group—working with partners Duke Energy, CPS Energy, and the University of Texas at San Antonio—has developed and demonstrated an active load management platform using Open Field Message Bus Reference Architecture. The platform gets away from the traditional centralized control concept, making it possible for distributed energy assets to communicate in real time with intelligent grid devices in the field. This allows for decisions to be made at the edge of the grid with more timely responses to changing conditions.

The company first demonstrated the platform in a microgrid application at Duke Energy on June 28. The second demonstration occurred on September 27 at Joint Base San Antonio, a joint Army and Navy base in Texas, which has set up a microgrid to power its library as a demonstration project. The system there combines a solar photovoltaic system, a battery storage system, a "sky cam" for weather prediction, and a Siemens Microgrid Management System. The system functioned well when the microgrid was islanded from the larger grid and then reconnected. The local utility, CPS Energy, is using the demonstration results to help inform their broader microgrid deployment strategy.

The project is one of five partnerships that NREL is managing under the Integrated Network Testbed for Energy Grid Research and Technology Experimentation (INTEGRATE) project, which aims to address the challenge of enabling the nation's electric grid to handle increasing amounts of renewable energy. See the NREL news release on INTEGRATE.

IEEE Spectrum: Can Smarter Solar Inverters Save the Grid?

In an article for IEEE Spectrum, NREL's Ben Kroposki writes about how smart solar inverters and a new technique called virtual oscillator control can help stabilize the electric grid. Read the full article.

"Typical" Solar Spectral Data Assists Solar Modeling and Project Development

A new SunShot National Laboratory Multiyear Partnership (SuNLaMP) project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's photovoltaic (PV) subprogram aims to develop and make public long-term spectral data with high temporal and spatial resolution. As opposed to simpler data about solar irradiation, usually expressed in watts per square meter, spectral data allow modelers and developers to examine the full solar spectrum and see how different parts of the spectrum interact with solar energy devices. As a simple example, locations where the blue light tends to get scattered more will benefit from PV panels that respond more to red light. Modeling with the spectral data enables more accurate performance assessments.

Among the most popular data sets developed and delivered by NREL from the National Solar Radiation Data Base (NSRDB) are the Typical Meteorological Year (TMY) data sets, which provide hourly solar and meteorological data for a "typical" year by combining data from various years. One of these data sets, TMY3, is available for nearly 1,000 locations around the country. To kick off the new SuNLaMP project, NREL has released a prototype spectral data set for all the TMY3 locations throughout the country, available via the NSRDB Data Viewer. Ultimately, gridded spectral data will be made available in 2018 and will provide a unique capability that could significantly reduce the cost of developing and operating PV plants.

FPL Examines the Functionality of Advanced Inverters in the ESIF

The Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) recently brought four different models of advanced inverters to NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) to determine how well they could provide grid-support services and to examine their efficiency and reliability. The grid-support experiments included riding through transient events involving low and high voltages and frequencies, providing volt-VAR control to prevent excessive voltages, operating at a constant power factor, and adjusting power output to help keep the grid's frequency within normal operating limits. To examine the reliability of the inverters, NREL and FPL staff examined their response to faults to ground and overvoltages caused by loads dropping off the grid, and they also tested the inverters' anti-islanding capabilities with their advanced grid-support functions enabled.

With these experimental results in hand, FPL will be able to make well-informed cost-benefit analyses of various inverter options for future utility-scale photovoltaic installations. In addition, the utility will have increased confidence in the expected behavior of advanced grid-support functions for each manufacturer's inverter.

GM Collaboration Aims to Improve Fuel Cell Performance

NREL and General Motors Corporation (GM) are collaborating on multiple projects to improve the cost, performance, and durability of polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells, which convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity to power vehicles without emitting pollutants. The collaboration is taking such approaches as creating better fuel cell catalysts and supports, identifying the impacts of contaminants leached from other components, and developing new online visual and thermal defect detection methods for fuel cell membranes and assemblies. See the new GM partner fact sheet.

ESIF Hosts Stakeholder Meetings on Grid Modernization Topics

NREL Engineer Aaron Bloom hosted a series of three grid modernization meetings at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) during the first week of October 2016. The first focused on multiscale production cost modeling, aiming to reduce computational time while increasing the model complexity for better understanding of power system operations. It was attended by more than 60 representatives from industry and government, with contributions from the Energy Department's Argonne, Lawrence Livermore, Pacific Northwest, and Sandia national laboratories.

The second, attended by about 50 people, involved the Interconnection Seams Study, which examines the potential for coordinating planning and operations between the Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection, together composing the majority of the U.S. electric grid. Study contributors include Iowa State University, the Southwest Power Pool, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, and the Energy Department's Argonne, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest national laboratories.

The third, the North American Renewable Integration Study (NARIS), examined how the United States, Mexico, and Canada can work together better and help each other meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. NARIS is a part of the North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership Action Plan that was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Barack Obama, and President Enrique Peña Nieto on June 29, 2016. The meeting was attended by about 50 people, including representatives from Canada and Mexico.

Video: What is Energy Systems Integration?

Watch a short video to learn more about the challenges NREL energy systems integration researchers are working to solve.

NREL Welcomes Matt Futch to the ESI Business Development Team

Photo of Matt Futch.

Matt Futch recently joined NREL as the global business development leader. Futch will be responsible for maintaining and expanding NREL's industry partnerships and users for the Energy Systems Integration Facility and representing NREL's systems integration capabilities for strategic partnerships with external industry and policy stakeholders in the United States and abroad.

Prior to joining NREL, Futch was vice president of regulatory strategy for National Grid US, where he led the development of a long-term regulatory and business strategy for three jurisdictional companies across New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island along with corporate-wide policy on key energy issues involving security, data privacy, and distributed generation. Futch devised the business and political strategy for the Renewable Energy Proceedings (REV) in New York and also played a key role in developing a financial and business case for moving the company into new ventures in nontraditional utility energy services.

Hannegan to Participate in "Empowering Customers & Cities" Conference

Bryan Hannegan, NREL's associate director for Energy Systems Integration, will participate in two events at the "Empowering Customers & Cities" conference, which takes place in Chicago, Illinois, on November 1–2, 2016. Just before the start of the conference, Hannegan will participate in an invitation-only "Energy SuperModels Game," a sophisticated game model developed by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) to investigate the sweeping transformation of the electric utility sector now underway. Participants will break into teams to deal with such power-sector challenges as solar power integration, coal-plant retirements, natural gas price spikes, and declining carbon emissions, all while trying to maintain reliability, affordability, and utility company competitiveness.

Those not invited to the game will have another chance to see Hannegan at the end of the conference for the "Putting it All Together" panel that will include Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Smart Electric Power Alliance; and Miles Keogh, research lab director for NARUC. The panel will give serious consideration to how the energy system is changing and the policies that will be needed to guide and shape that transformation. They also intend to "peer behind the curtain" and consider the basic forces now at work in the electric mélange of the United States and the world.

SRRL Hosts the 19th NREL Pyrheliometer Comparisons to Ensure Accurate Solar Measurements

NREL's Solar Radiation Research Laboratory (SRRL) convened a special gathering of solar energy measurement experts from around the world in late September as it hosted the 19th NREL Pyrheliometer Comparisons (NPC). Solar insolation is measured with devices called radiometers, and the SRRL is one of only two places in the world where organizations can bring their radiometers to calibrate them against an international reference standard.

The other location for such calibration fests is the World Radiation Center in Davos, Switzerland, where the world standard for radiometric measurements, the World Radiometric Reference, is updated every five years. In the years between such events, NREL hosts the NPC. This year's NPC drew a record turnout of nearly 40 participants from the United States and six foreign countries: Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Switzerland, and Taiwan. See the NREL feature story on the NPC.

NREL Grid Integration Experts Train Caribbean Utilities on Renewable Energy Issues

Barbara O'Neill, NREL's manager for grid integration, attended the Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation (CARILEC) Renewable Energy Conference in St. Kitts the week of September 12, 2016. O'Neill presented NREL's research for islands on renewable energy integration. Following the conference, Emerson Reiter and O'Neill gave an eight-hour training to 25 people for the Energy Department's Energy Transitions Initiative (ETI). The agenda included an overview of ETI's Islands Playbook, how the ETI scenario tool aids the Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) process, power purchase agreements and risk mitigation, electricity modeling and forecasting for planning and operation, ancillary services and the Puerto Rican demonstration project, and an overview of solar and wind resource data and forecasting. The team briefly touched on Jamaica's net billing and interconnection process work, St. Lucia's IRP, and the U.S. Virgin Islands undersea cable projects.

In addition, NREL engineers Bryan Palmintier and Dheepak Krishnamurthy participated via webinar to give a power system and distribution engineering overview and a hands-on distribution feeder tool training. Each attendee was able to explain the state of their island with respect to renewable energy strides and challenges that they were personally facing. The team commented when they could on specific challenges and had cross-collaboration from the attendees to help solve problems by learning through each other's experiences. The team received great feedback on all the topics.

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