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Energy Systems Integration News

A monthly recap of the latest happenings at the Energy Systems Integration Facility and developments in the energy systems integration (ESI) research at NREL and around the world.

July 2017

Read the latest ESI news from NREL.

Aerial view of wind turbines on Maui

HECO Grid Modernization Project Informed by ESIF Research

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved on July 17, 2017, a Power Supply Improvement Plan (PSIP) submitted by the Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) to upgrade its five island power grids. The plan describes the scope and estimated cost to update the energy networks of Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light in the next five years, and how it will help the companies achieve a consolidated renewable portfolio standard of 48% by 2020 (relative to a mandate of 30%) and 100% by 2040, five years ahead of schedule. The PSIP was informed by NREL research on advanced inverters and renewable resource potential in Hawaii.

To achieve the plan's goals, HECO will acquire nearly 400 megawatts of new renewable resources by 2021. HECO's plan anticipates continued growth of rooftop solar and describes the work needed to expand and upgrade grid infrastructure, using the newest generations of inverters, control systems, and energy storage to help reliably integrate an estimated total of 165,000 rooftop systems by 2030, more than twice today's total of 79,000. See the HECO press release.

Meanwhile, on June 30, 2017, HECO also submitted a related strategy to modernize its power grids, allowing for the greater use of renewable resources, improved reliability, and greater customer choice. Now under consideration by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, the plan was also informed by ESIF research that examined the performance of advanced inverters on HECO's distribution grids. See HECO's Grid Modernization Strategy and the ESIF webpage on NREL's work on advanced inverters for HECO.


NREL, Panasonic, and Xcel Energy to Optimize Denver’s Peña Station NEXT Net-Zero Energy Development

ESIF researchers are partnering with Panasonic Corporation and Xcel Energy to simulate and optimize the energy load profile of Peña Station NEXT, a planned 382-acre mixed-use development in Denver, Colorado. The project will employ the ESIF's grid modeling capabilities while demonstrating URBANopt software, a buildings and district energy modeling tool currently under development at NREL. Through this project, NREL hopes to enable a cost-effective, scalable net-zero development infrastructure that has great potential for replication and adoption across the U.S. in future developments.

The project uses URBANopt to analyze the projected dynamic energy consumption of corporate office space, retail space, multifamily dwellings, a hotel, parking, and street lighting within the planned development. The data will then be integrated into Xcel Energy's grid distribution modeling tools to create a cost-effective design framework that the utility and developer can use to integrate more distributed energy resources, such as solar photovoltaics or efficient building systems, and innovative rate structures into the development before it is constructed.

The partners are confident the project holds great promise beyond Peña Station NEXT's borders. Xcel Energy will consider owning and operating the necessary infrastructure to achieve carbon neutrality, potentially expanding the offering to future communities in Colorado. Panasonic is similarly interested in how it might replicate and scale carbon-neutral districts and developments across its other current and future smart city engagements through Panasonic CityNOW. NREL will share its expertise and apply the lessons learned from this project to future developments. See the NREL press release.

This story has gained traction with the press, earning coverage in Utility Dive, the Denver Business Journal, Solar Power World, and the Energy Times.

NREL Analysis Shows Clear-Sky Probabilities for the August Solar Eclipse

Hoping to view the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse? Although the availability of hotel rooms and camping spots along the path of totality may dictate the viewing location for many eclipse chasers, there is another factor to consider: the weather. With that in mind, researchers from NREL's National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB), working with experts from Solar Resources Solutions, LLC, have created maps showing the probability of clear skies across the entire path of the eclipse.

To capture the effects of both daily weather patterns and the occasional passing of large weather systems, the analysis zeroed in on the actual time of the maximum eclipse at each location, plus one half hour before that time and one half hour after, for the five days before and after August 21 during each of the 18 years of historical data in the NSRDB. The maps also attempt to account for haze, based on the modeled NSRDB direct normal solar irradiance. See the maps in the report, "Clear-Sky Probability for the August 21, 2017, Total Solar Eclipse Using the NREL National Solar Radiation Database."

To access the full-size maps attached to the report, download it to your computer, open it in Adobe Acrobat, and click on the paperclip that appears in the upper left-hand corner. That gives you the option of opening the two maps associated with the report for printing or detailed viewing. Note that the maps show the probability of clear skies based on 18 years of data, but they should not be interpreted as a weather forecast. Eclipse chasers can use the maps to aid in their planning, but as the eclipse date approaches, weather forecasts will become increasingly important for making last-minute changes to those plans.

The NSRDB holds high-resolution solar irradiance data to support grid integration, feasibility, and operational analyses for photovoltaic and concentrating solar power generation projects. Improved satellite-based solar irradiance models are essential to increasing the successful deployment of new solar energy conversion systems and to understanding system efficiencies of existing installations.

Verizon Project Aims to Supply Efficient Backup Power to Cell Phone Towers

Verizon is working with NREL to determine how well a solar photovoltaic (PV) system with battery energy storage can provide backup power to a cell phone tower. To make this setup operate efficiently, the cell tower equipment is all powered with direct current (DC), so the PV and battery power do not need to be rectified, although this means that the default grid power source must be rectified to DC to power the system. The prototype system consists of two cabinets—one containing batteries, rectifiers, and controllers, and another containing baseband units, surge protection, and other telecommunication equipment—each with a prototype DC-powered cooling system, as well as 12 radios to serve as representative loads for the simulated cell tower. The two cabinets were installed in an environmental chamber in the ESIF in late June to allow for tests in a range of conditions.

The system will be operated both from grid power and from power supplied by a 15-kilowatt PV simulator. With the environmental chamber, NREL engineers will operate the system at temperatures as low as -40°C (-40°F) and as high as 52°C (126°F). The performance of the system will be determined in conditions that simulate 17 climate zones, and for each climate zone, NREL will use its REOpt software to determine the most cost-effective backup system, the ideal solution for a system operating independent of the grid, and the optimal solution for a system with the PV panels sized to shade the cabinets. These analyses will result in a design guide for climate-specific sizing of the system.

NREL’s Erfan Ibrahim to Provide Opening Talk at NCEMC 2017 Conference

NREL’s Erfan Ibrahim will kick off the August 2017 North Carolina Electric Membership Cooperatives (NCEMC) Conference, leading a talk on system security for critical infrastructure. The conference, which will be held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, will focus on the theme “Tech Assessment and Strategy for Co-ops,” and Ibrahim’s opening talk will address the economic, operational, and reliability benefits of a systemic security approach over a more traditional approach to security in the electric sector. While traditional approaches to security primarily depend on information technology-centric cybersecurity controls, Ibrahim will explain how a systemic security concept depends on sound network design principles and purpose-built cybersecurity technologies, limiting attack surfaces and mitigating residual risk through advanced situational awareness.

See our Latest Video with the OMNETRIC Group and Siemens

Earlier this spring, NREL partnered with the OMNETRIC Group to present on their distributed control hierarchy—based on an open field message bus (OpenFMB) framework with Siemens’ Microgrid Management System—at one of the ESIF’s Industry Day events. Check out our latest video on the project to see footage from the technology demonstration, and learn more about how the ESIF provided the right setting to validate technology, using real equipment under multiple conditions.

ICYMI: DOE Went Live Inside the ESIF

EERE Digital took viewers for a ride in a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and into an Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) lab in two Facebook Live videos this month. In a live ride along and fueling tour, Lindsey Peters, senior communications specialist with EERE, learned about hydrogen fuel cell research from NREL’s Jennifer Kurtz. Viewers chimed in, asking about mileage, to see the engine, and whether you can drink the water that drips from the tailpipe. Peters also explored the Systems Performance Lab with NREL’s Dane Christensen to learn about smart buildings. The video offers a sneak peek into ESIF research to make our homes more comfortable and convenient while saving energy.