Energy Systems Integration Newsletter

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

March 2018

Sr. Project Leader, Jim Green, opens the doors on the Flex manufactured battery enclosure,1 MW, 1 MWh rating, using lithium ion batteries from LG, at the Battery Energy Storage System, owned and operated by NREL for grid integration research at the NWTC.

Developments at NREL Shave Response Time for Large-Scale Batteries Down to Milliseconds

Significant advancements to NREL’s 1-megawatt battery energy storage system (BESS) at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) are expanding the boundaries of utility-scale battery technologies to achieve millisecond-scale response times. This superfast and robust control system, developed by NREL engineers Robb Wallen and Przemyslaw Koralewicz, helps demonstrate how battery technologies can play an increasingly important role in the emerging fast reliability grid service markets.

Services that will benefit from the expanded BESS system include fast frequency response, fast active power flow controls, reactive power and voltage control, transient fault ride-through, and more.

“Achieving a response time of less than 30–40 milliseconds is a significant accomplishment for the battery energy storage system industry,” said Vahan Gevorgian, chief engineer with NREL’s Power Systems Engineering Center. “Results of this work are already being implemented into a multitude of NREL projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and other strategic partnerships.”

Operating on the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories standard substation real-time automation controller, the BESS controller concept offers a viable, market-ready solution for wide-scale adoption. Researchers have incorporated the technology into the NWTC’s controllable grid interface (CGI) power-hardware-in-the-loop test setup for further evaluation, transforming the CGI into a cutting-edge research platform for validating superfast response characteristics of energy storage to ensure reliable and cost-effective integration of energy storage onto the grid.

Learn more about NREL’s work on grid-integration and energy storage

ESIF Takes Second for Institutional Buildings in 2018 ASHRAE Technology Awards

The Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) came in second place for Institutional Buildings for one of this year’s ASHRAE Technology Awards. The ESIF was nominated by SmithGroupJJR, the design architecture-engineering firm that realized the vision for NREL’s newest facility.

"The ESIF design-build team exceeded all NREL requirements, building the most efficient high-performance computing data center in the world, with a record low power usage effectiveness rate, and the ability to reuse waste heat from the data center to heat the building," said Otto VanGeet, senior engineer with NREL’s Integrated Applications Center. "This ASHRAE award, in addition to many other awards that the ESIF has received, is confirmation of the design-build team’s accomplishments in the construction and mechanical design of the facility."

The ESIF represents a distinguished institutional building of the future in the way it was built to achieve significant energy- and water-reducing concepts while performing as a megawatt-scale simulation hub to optimize the integration of emerging energy technologies onto the grid.

The ASHRAE Technology Awards Program recognizes its members for successful demonstrations of innovative building design that incorporates effective energy management, indoor air quality, and sound mechanical design. Awards are given on a regional, national, and international scale. More on this year's awards were published in the latest edition of the ASHRAE Journal. In more news related to ASHRAE, check out our Q&A with Sheila Hayter, ASHRAE's president elect for the upcoming year.   

Research Fellow Mark O'Malley Inducted into National Academy of Engineering

Among only 16 foreign members who were chosen this year, NREL Senior Research Fellow and ESI Chief Scientist Mark O’Malley has been elected as a foreign member to the National Academy of Engineering. On sabbatical from University College Dublin, O’Malley joined NREL in September 2017. He is a professor of electrical engineering, a world-leading expert on ESI concepts, and director and co-founder of the International Institute for Energy Systems Integration (iiESI). 

Election to the National Academy of Engineering is considered among the highest professional distinctions given to an engineer and is limited to those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering, research, practice, or education.  

"I am thrilled and honored at this recognition," O’Malley said. "I want to acknowledge the great support I have had from my colleagues at NREL and in Ireland ,and globally in academia and industry, and in particular professors Tom Brazil and Annraoi de Paor at University College Dublin." 

O'Malley was singled out "for contributions to the integration of wind generation resources into the electric grid." 

Q&A with Sheila Hayter: Laying the Foundation for an Interconnected Energy Future

Sheila Hayter is a group manager with NREL's Integrated Applications Center (IAC), leading a team of experts who support international, federal, state, and local entities with the goal of significantly reducing non-renewable energy consumption though optimized use of energy efficiency strategies and renewable energy technologies. She has led IAC's partnership development activities and manages work addressing technical challenges to identifying, evaluating, and implementing clean energy solutions. Along with her NREL work, Hayter is the ASHRAE president elect and will serve as president during the 2018/19 ASHRAE Society Year.

We caught up with Hayter this week to discuss where her roles with ASHRAE and NREL intersect and how she sees them working together. 

ESI Researchers Return from ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit

Once a year in Washington, D.C., the country's most advanced energy research projects are exhibited at the Advanced Research Projects Agancy-Energy (ARPA-E) Energy Innovation Summit. The event showcases broad directions in energy research, such as a miniature field of corn tended by an autonomous robot, or a Ford F-150 with revamped, higher-efficiency engine parts. The projects—all ARPA-E-funded—constitute transformational technologies that have high-risk, high-reward potential. Among NREL's participation at this year’s Summit were three ESI research groups, each studying a unique approach to grid modernization.

One approach, represented by ESI engineers Emiliano Dall'Anese and Andrey Bernstein, optimizes the operation of distribution systems with high levels of distributed energy resources in real time. The concept capitalizes on network-level coordination and network-cognizant operations to enable feeders, neighborhoods, and communities to provide grid services, and increase system efficiency and reliability.

In a related concept, a University of Minnesota project with participation from ESI engineer Blake Lundstrom is developing peer-to-peer coordination among distributed systems. The project will design self-organizing power systems that are responsive to the variability of grid events. Local units will be able to engage, disengage, and adjust their energy usage flexibly using the group’s control architecture. Read more about their project on enabling the grid of the future.

NREL's third ARPA-E grid-related project was represented by ESI engineers Bri-Mathias Hodge and Bryan Palmintier. The group is dodging the difficulty of gathering real grid data by generating realistic grid data using Synthetic Models for Advanced, Realistic Testing: Distribution Systems and Scenarios, or Smart-DS. The models, some of which are already available at, will provide researchers with the data they need that is otherwise unavailable due to privacy and security concerns.  

iiESI Joins Energy Systems Integration Group

The NREL-managed International Institute for Energy Systems Integration (iiESI) recently joined with the former Utility-Variable Generation Integration Group (UVIG), which has broadened its reach among the ESI community and changed its name to the Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG).

NREL managed iiESI since it was established in 2014, with the intention of expanding its network of researchers and educators to industry leaders in the energy sector. Because UVIG's network comprises a larger industry presence, the member-based organization makes an ideal partner to join with iiESI. This integration of iiESI and UVIG reflects a changing industry that emphasizes coordination among a wide range of energy systems.

Over the past few years, iiESI members have hosted global and regional workshops to address ESI challenges, released joint publications on ESI topics, and provided educational seminars for Ph.D. students. iiESI members will support a new Research and Education Working Group within ESIG and continue to organize workshops globally. Mark O'Malley will serve as chair of the new working group.

"We see this as an amazing opportunity to collaborate," said O'Malley. "With this transition, we will get even more industrial and academic participation and play a greater role in the future of the energy industry."

NREL Launches New Website for HPC System Users

The Computational Science Center at NREL has launched a revamped website for users of the lab’s high-performance computing (HPC) system. The site features data storage and transfer options, training for using the systems, an internal HPC community wiki, and a reorganization of content that was informed by feedback from past users.

Peregrine, the HPC system at NREL, offers users the largest HPC environment in the world dedicated to advancing renewable energy technologies. With more than 50,000 processors and a 2.24 petaflop capability, Peregrine provides modeling, simulation, and visualization support to diverse research projects housed in the ESIF. 

NREL Joins Faraday Institution to Support Emerging Energy Storage Technologies

Imagine driving an electric car from Denver to Santa Fe on a single charge. A European equivalent of that is London to Glasgow, and the Faraday Institution—an independent battery research organization based in England—wants to make it a reality by supporting and advancing electrochemical energy storage research and development activities and programs throughout the United Kingdom. NREL’s Johney Green recently joined Faraday's inaugural board of trustees alongside nine other representatives from DOE national labs, as well as academia, private industry, and public service.

"The move toward cleaner, more efficient transportation is an exciting validation of decades of research in this area," said Green. "As nations around the world establish policies shifting from the production of gasoline-powered vehicles to electrified vehicles over the next few decades, maximizing battery performance and reliability, while decreasing their cost will become even more important."

As the Associate Laboratory Director for Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences, Green oversees a variety of NREL’s research areas aimed at driving technological innovation in the areas of energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and renewable power. 

ESIF Call for High-Impact Integrated Projects is Open

The ESIF Call for High-Impact Integrated Projects is open through May 7, 2018. Through this call, the research community can access the ESIF's unique capabilities independently or alongside NREL researchers. Qualifying projects must satisfy the goals of the 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.  

Learn more about this opportunity on the ESIF User Call page, where you can also view the solicitation, frequently asked questions, and an informational webinar. Questions can be directed to

New Publications in Solar Radiation

Two new NREL papers on measuring and modeling solar radiation will be released in spring editions of Solar Energy and Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. The papers are both authored by FARMS model developers Yu Xie and Manajit Sengupta, and include contributions from other NREL researchers.

The first paper proposes algorithms to assess uncertainty in solar radiation models. The amount of solar radiation that strikes a panel must be estimated from a few sources, including diffuse solar radiation that has been irregularly scattered by the atmosphere. A variety of models are used to integrate those measurements, each with its own successes and shortcomings. An assessment of the uncertainty inherent in each model is necessary to improve accuracy of solar radiation predictions.

In another paper, authors review the National Solar Radiation Data Base (NSRDB) and NREL's continued improvements to it. The NSRDB combines data gathered for more than 20 years from satellites and ground sensors with predictions computed by NREL models. It provides an accurate and complete data set of solar radiation at high temporal and spatial resolution.

Learn more about our solar measurement and modeling research.