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Energy Systems Integration Newsletter

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

December 2016

Read the latest ESI news from NREL.

Photo of transmission lines.

NREL Participates in New NSF Big Data Project for Smart Grids

NREL is participating in a National Science Foundation (NSF) project to develop the framework for using the vast amounts of data being generated by the nation's smart grids. Led by Texas A&M University, the project is one of 10 "Big Data Spokes" announced in late September by the NSF. Recognizing the importance of big data to address many of the nation's scientific and engineering challenges, the NSF established four Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs in late 2015, and these hubs identified specific priority areas in "Big Data Spokes," which reflect each hub's unique capabilities. Each Big Data Spoke will work on a challenge that requires big data approaches and solutions in given domains.

The South Big Data Hub chose the Smart Grids Big Data Spoke that NREL is supporting. The Smart Grids Big Data Spoke aims to develop a fundamental framework for extracting knowledge and integrating big data for power system applications. This action-oriented organization will enable the South Big Data Hub to meet the societal grand challenge of creating technological solutions that can fulfill the economic potential inherent in big data analytics in the electric utility industry, which is expected to reach an annual value of nearly $4 billion by 2020.

NREL Researchers Highlight Advances in Wind Energy and Grid Integration at International Workshops

Vahan Gevorgian, Bethany Frew, and Aaron Bloom traveled to Vienna, Austria, to participate in a back-to-back workshop series on wind and solar integration from November 14–17. The 15th Wind Integration Workshop and 6th Solar Integration Workshop are the premier international events for renewables integration.

Gevorgian presented his pioneering frequency-response study of the Western Interconnection, as well as capabilities and control features of NREL's controllable grid interface, which enables testing of many active and reactive power control features of modern wind turbine generators. Frew presented research on wholesale market design and capacity valuation work funded by the wind program. Bloom presented sensitivities on the Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study (ERGIS).

A key takeaway from the events was the prevalence of NREL citations in industry research. Previous work was cited in numerous European studies, and ERGIS was mentioned as an example of how large systems like the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity might conduct an analysis on continental Europe. Internationally, research funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is becoming more widely recognized as an example of state-of-the-art methods, data, and analysis.

Paper by NREL Researchers Discusses Transactive Home Energy Management Systems

Single-family homes account for 36% of the electricity load in the United States, and often they determine the peak system load, especially on hot summer days when residential air-conditioning use is high. In the residential sector, there is also an increased adoption of rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which can lead to bidirectional power flow at peak PV production and significant power ramps as PV output decreases in the late afternoon. Building power profiles are likely to change even more as residential energy storage products proliferate.

A better understanding of residential electricity demand is one key to addressing the envisioned transition of the electric power system from its traditional structure to one that is transactive, defined as "a system of economic and control mechanisms that allows the dynamic balance of supply and demand across the entire electrical infrastructure using value as a key operational parameter." An article published in the December 2016 issue of IEEE Electrification Magazine by NREL researchers Annabelle Pratt, Dheepak Krishnamurthy, Mark Ruth, Hongyu Wu, Monte Lunacek, and Paul Vaynshenk explores how the concept of transactive energy can be applied to home energy management systems to optimize residential energy production and use.

Aaron Bloom Discusses the South Australian Power Blackout on Australian Radio

NREL researcher Aaron Bloom was interviewed for a story that ran on Australian radio show Rear Vision, part of the RN network, on November 27, 2016. The discussion was prompted by a power blackout in South Australia caused by major storms, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull blamed on aggressive renewable energy targets. The event was triggered by a windstorm that took down several high-voltage transmission lines. One interviewee noted that wind farms did contribute to the event by going offline, but that was due to low fault ride-through settings that would have been an issue on any type of power plant. Bloom noted that being part of a large integrated power system makes renewable energy integration easier.

ESIF Research Shows That Connected Residential Devices Can Provide Grid Support

Using the Energy Systems integration Facility's (ESIF's) power hardware-in-the-loop capability, researchers have combined an actual smart home and a number of simulated homes to show that communication-enabled residential devices can provide frequency regulation. When connected devices in the ESIF's Smart Home Test Bed received demand response (DR) requests from a grid aggregator, their aggregate response followed the regulation signal on a timescale of seconds. While responding to the DR requests, the devices still satisfied comfort bounds and physical hardware limitations. The research was presented at the 3rd ACM International Conference on Systems for Energy-Efficient Built Environments, held in Palo Alto, California, on November 16 and 17, 2016. Future research will address the issues of cybersecurity threats, participation rates, and reducing equipment wear-and-tear while providing grid services.

Whisker Labs Tests Peel-and-Stick Energy Metering in the ESIF

Whisker Labs, a startup from Oakland, California, has successfully tested a peel-and-stick energy metering device in the ESIF's Systems Performance Laboratory. The technology indirectly measures voltage and current by monitoring the electric and magnetic fields around a circuit breaker, using proprietary computations to determine the power within the breaker circuit. The stick-on sensor connects to a hub that connects wirelessly to the internet. Although less accurate than a standard meter, the peel-and-stick sensor provides valuable qualitative data for understanding what's happening on a given circuit, effectively providing sub-metering capabilities for low cost with minimal invasiveness.

The sensor was developed as part of the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator, a five-year, $10-million program funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by NREL to foster and accelerate early-stage commercial building technologies. After qualification testing in the ESIF, the energy metering system was installed at a Wells Fargo branch bank in Aurora, Colorado.

Murali Baggu Presents on DERMS to Utilities Conference on the Internet of Things

ESIF Engineer Murali Baggu presented at the 2nd Annual IoT & Big Data For Utilities conference in San Mateo, California, on December 7, 2016. Baggu presented on Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems (DERMS), discussing how they offer real-time predictive analytics to offer utilities complete situational awareness and business intelligence. Baggu also noted the opportunity to harness next-generation graphical information systems mapping for better enterprise analytics.

ESIF Call for High-Impact Project Proposals

Applications are currently being accepted for the ESIF's User Call for High-Impact Projects. As part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Grid Modernization Initiative—which aims to develop the concepts, tools, and technologies needed to measure, analyze, predict, protect, and control the grid of the future—qualified candidates will enhance innovation in the private sector and develop scalable technologies for the modern grid. DOE may provide up to $250,000 per project to match the applicant's cost-shared contribution for laboratory services and research and development support.

To be considered a high-impact project, applicants must:

  • Use multiple grid technologies, such as energy storage, wind, solar, or hydrogen technologies
  • Address the challenges outlined in the Grid Modernization Multi-Year Program Plan
  • Exhibit high impact on the companies and regions it supports
  • Demonstrate national scalability
  • Offer valuable lessons learned for nationwide implementation.

Find information on how to apply on the FedBizOpps website. Proposals will be accepted until January 27, 2017, at 5 p.m. EST.

Stop by Our Booth at DistribuTECH

DistribuTECH, the leading annual electric power transmission and distribution conference and exhibition event, is coming to San Diego, California, from January 31 to February 2, 2017, and we'll be there! Stop by booth #2152, located in the northeast corner of Hall F, and be sure to say hi!

NREL and HECO Test Advanced Inverter Functionality on Simulated Hawaiian Electric Grid

Advanced inverters offer features that can help the grid function better, especially in areas with high concentrations of distributed photovoltaic (PV) power. These advanced features are relatively new, however, so there is a need to better understand exactly how they work with the grid in real-world scenarios. NREL continued its work with the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) in FY16 to study this question. Researchers modeled and evaluated a select set of inverters for advanced functionality, including: fixed power factor, voltage ride-through, frequency ride-through, ramp rate control, soft-start reconnection, and voltage-watt control.

NREL then conducted power hardware-in-the-loop (PHIL) simulations at the ESIF to test how the advanced inverters would interact with the Hawaiian island grid under conditions with high penetrations of PV systems. The PHIL tests found that all inverters were able to perform volt-watt control and fixed power factor control simultaneously, and operating at a power factor of 0.95 is a primary factor in reducing high voltages, with volt-watt control as a backup. The PHIL tests also confirmed that neighboring inverters will not result in undesirable dynamic interactions. This work will help HECO understand the effect of new smart inverter functionality in order to deploy greater levels of PV on the Hawaiian grid while maintaining a reliable grid with good power quality. HECO has filed NREL's project report including recommendations for advanced inverter operations with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission as part of HECO's plan to activate additional advanced inverter functionality. See the NREL and HECO joint report.