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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.

September 2017

Read the latest ESI news from NREL.

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New Round of Grid Modernization Projects to Improve the Resilience and Security of Nation’s Critical Energy Infrastructure

A reliable and resilient electric grid is critical not only to our national and economic security, but also to the everyday lives of individuals across the country. With the changing supply and distribution mix of today’s energy sources—and disruptions caused by accidents, natural threats, or cyber and physical attacks—our nation’s electricity grid must evolve. 

As part of the Grid Modernization Initiative, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced funding of up to $50 million during three years to the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC), which includes NREL, nine other national labs, and several industry partners—to advance resilient electricity distribution systems.

NREL will support projects that increase distribution resiliency with flexible distributed energy resources (DERs) and microgrid assets as well as analyze the potential impacts of the projects. As project lead on one of the 20 cybersecurity efforts funded by DOE's Cybersecurity for Energy Delivery Systems (CEDS) R&D Program, NREL will also develop a low-cost distributed cryptography technique to help protect energy infrastructure information on operational technology (OT) networks.

Among resilient distribution projects, researchers from NREL's Power Systems Engineering Center are working with other national laboratories and industry partners to accelerate the deployment of resilient and secure distribution concepts using flexible DERs and microgrid assets. The team will accomplish this though an open field message bus (OpenFMB) framework, which allows centralized distribution management. System functions will be coordinated with decentralized DERs and microgrids using OpenFMB, a reference architecture for security and interoperability. This represents a change in the operational paradigm from treating DERs and microgrids as boundary conditions to active system assets with distributed controls, enabling system flexibility to address all hazards.

Energy analysis experts at NREL will participate in the Laboratory Valuation Analysis Team, which will establish appropriate metrics to characterize the impact and value of the GMLC projects funded in this round. The analysis will also provide a consistent framework and approach in conducting cost-benefit analyses across the portfolio, with consideration of each project's objectives and results.

Leading the cybersecurity project "Module-OT," researchers from NREL's Cyber-Physical Systems Security and Resilience R&D Center are developing a low-cost distributed cryptography technique to help protect energy infrastructure information. In particular, Module-OT will evaluate the integrity of command and control messages in transit to and from DERs on operational technology networks, which are increasingly used to enhance electric grid reliability. This module will mitigate threats arising from man-in-the-middle attacks as well as other forms of unauthorized access. This work is funded by DOE's CEDS R&D Program.

Awards were made available through the GMLC-funded Resilient Distribution Systems Lab Call, which seeks to develop and validate innovative approaches to enhance the resilience of distribution systems. The 20 announced cybersecurity projects funded by the CEDS R&D Program will enhance the reliability and resilience of the nation's electric grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure through innovative, scalable, and cost-effective research and development of cybersecurity solutions. Learn more by reading the DOE press release.

NREL Workshop at the Solar Decathlon Investigates Net-Zero Master Planning

Visitors to the Solar Decathlon, being held October 5–15, 2017, have the option of attending a variety of consumer workshops, including one presented by NREL on "The Making of a Smart City," which will provide an overview of the site of the Solar Decathlon event, called Peña Station NEXT. The site is a 382-acre, mixed-use, transit-oriented development near Denver International Airport (DIA), and it is guided by a net-zero master plan that maximizes renewable energy and energy-efficiency measures. The workshop will focus on how early integration of land-use planning, participation from electric utilities, and new modeling techniques might indicate a new business model for highly sustainable urban development. ESI's Matt Futch is one of the presenters, along with Alice Jackson of Xcel Energy, Mike Hess of Panasonic Enterprise Solutions (the site developer), Scott Morrissey of DIA, and Blake Fulenwider of Fulenwider Enterprises. It will be held from 2–3 p.m. on Monday, October 9, 2017, in the Wells Fargo Education Tent, where all of the workshops are being held. See the full schedule of Solar Decathlon consumer workshops.

The CUBE System Aims to Cut Diesel Fuel Use at Forward Operating Bases

What do you do if you are a power electronics engineer in the ESIF trying to reduce the military's dependence on diesel fuel at its forward operating bases? Well, you design a power conditioning, protection, and distribution system that integrates electricity from a variety of sources—solar panels, batteries, and the military's diesel generators—using algorithms developed to reduce diesel fuel use while maintaining a reliable supply of electricity. Called the consolidated utility base energy (CUBE) system, during trial runs it has achieved 31% savings in fuel use, which can literally translate into saved lives because of reduced deliveries of fuel through hostile territory. To learn more, see the NREL feature article.

Dr. Martha Symko-Davies Selected as Laboratory Program Manager for ESI 

Dr. Martha Symko-Davies has been selected as laboratory program manager (LPM) for ESI at NREL. In her new role, Symko-Davies will provide technical leadership, oversee program development, guide NREL's program direction for both ESI and the ESIF, ensure alignment of NREL's program with priorities of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and guarantee high-quality technical output from NREL's ESI activities by accessing the most appropriate array of research-and-development, analysis, and market transformation capabilities within NREL. Symko-Davies and several other members of NREL's senior management team will also share the responsibility for managing the effective use of the ESIF and the Controllable Grid Interface at the National Wind Technology Center.

During her 19 years at NREL, Symko-Davies has developed more than 100 partnerships and more than $14 million in funds-in agreements with key ESI stakeholders to address the challenges of systems integration from the residential to utility scale. Prior to this role, she was the architect and integrator for the Photovoltaic Technology Incubator, funded in part by DOE, resulting in more than $1.4 billion in private investments. Symko-Davies has been recognized by DOE as one of the top innovators in the area of photovoltaics. She has received four R&D 100 Awards and recognition by the Denver Business Journal as one of the "Top Women in Energy."

Symko-Davies holds a doctorate in material science from the University of Denver and a bachelor's in physics from the University of Utah. She began her new position on September 18.

Where Can Commercial Customers Benefit from Photovoltaics + Storage?

In many places, utility demand charges can account for 30% to 70% of a commercial customer's electricity bill. As energy storage costs fall, many of these customers might find it more economical to install batteries and shift their electricity demand to off-peak times. But which customers will actually benefit? In a new whitepaper, NREL researchers analyzed more than 10,000 utility tariffs in 48 states to identify regions with high demand charges and found that approximately 5 million commercial customers may be able to cut their energy bills by deploying battery storage to manage peak demand. To learn more, see the NREL news release.

VIDEO: Measuring the Sun Since 1981

Since 1981, NREL's Solar Radiation Research Laboratory has been collecting continuous measurements of solar radiation using the world's largest collection of continuously operating solar radiation measurement instruments. Visit the lab's instrument deck and learn more about its purpose in this 360-degree time-lapse video.

Updated NREL Data Track Cost and Performance of Electricity Generating Technologies

For energy analysts, and others who track the costs and trends of electricity-producing technologies, a key resource has recently been updated. NREL released its third update to the Annual Technology Baseline (ATB), which documents cost and performance data on a broad spectrum of electricity generation technologies. It also highlights key trends and makes projections to 2050. The ATB is a widely referenced resource for energy analysts. In fact, the ATB is crucial to many of the energy analyses conducted at NREL. To learn more, see the NREL news release.

Recent Publications Demonstrate the Breadth of NREL's ESI Research

From home energy management systems to using wind turbines to generate inertial responses to grid disturbances, ESI researchers have spanned the breadth of ESI topics in recent journal articles and technical reports. In August, Applied Energy published an NREL technical article on "Foresee: A User-Centric Home Energy Management System for Energy Efficiency and Demand Response," which describes how foreseeTM optimizes the way a home operates to concurrently meet homeowners' needs, save energy while reducing utility bills, and reliably deliver grid services based on utility signals. foreseeTM uses machine-learning algorithms to learn homeowners' preferences and act on their behalf to efficiently operate building equipment such as appliances, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, and battery storage systems.

From the utility's viewpoint, however, the new ways that their customers are interacting with the grid are creating greater uncertainty in predicting electrical load and PV output. In an article published in IEEE Intelligent Systems, "Consumption Behavior Analytics-Aided Energy Forecasting and Dispatch," NREL ESI researchers investigate data analytics and forecasting methods to identify correlations between electricity consumption behavior and distributed PV output. The results from the forecasts feed into a predictive energy management system that optimizes energy consumption in the near future to balance customer demand and power system needs. 

In addition, an ESI study, "Real-Time Digital Simulation of Inertial Response with Hardware-in-the-Loop Implementation on the CART3 Wind Turbine at the National Wind Technology Center," collaboration with the University of Denver (DU) examined how utilities might draw on utility-scale wind turbines to provide inertial responses to grid disturbances. The NREL-DU team modeled the performance of a wind power plant with various types of inertial controls to find the best methods. The team then implemented Digital Real-Time Simulator controls for a wind turbine at the National Wind Technology Center and demonstrated the effectiveness of wind turbine inertial response using that turbine, which was connected to a real-time simulated power system test bed to evaluate its response to frequency deviations. The simulation results generally indicate that improved power system reliability can be achieved with controlled inertial response from wind turbines. A mechanical loading analysis shows that the inertial response might decrease thrust-related turbine loadings while increasing the loads on the shaft connecting the rotor low-speed side to the high-speed shaft.