Energy Systems Integration Newsletter: August 2020

In this edition, Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette announces a groundbreaking new research platform, we explore grid flexibility from electric vehicles, an NREL tool advances cybersecurity for distributed energy resources, and more.

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Significant Expansion in Energy Systems Capabilities Announced at Secretary Visit

ARIES—Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems—is a new research platform that will amplify NREL's capabilities by connecting them at scale. The announcement of ARIES took place during an August visit to NREL by Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Dan Brouillette. ARIES reflects a national effort to expand resources to help modernize energy systems.

"ARIES will enable DOE and industry to de-risk the technical, the operational, and the financial impacts of large-scale integration in a unique environment that doesn't currently exist," Secretary Brouillette said.

ARIES connects not only research assets at NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility and Flatirons Campus but also NREL to resources at other national laboratories. Part of the ARIES build-out includes a 100-Gbps fiber-optic link that creates real-time data exchange among all capabilities. In this way, the combined resources can replicate systems the size of large cities and can facilitate experiments with simulations of millions of devices integrated with utility-scale hardware.

With ARIES, utility and industry partners can gather reliable results around technical and operational investments, seeing their systems reproduced in a safe test environment. Secretary Brouillette's ARIES announcement heralds a tool that transforms the nation's role as a leader in energy innovation.

Read more about Secretary Brouillette's visit and ARIES. For the official ARIES announcement, read the DOE press release.

Finding Opportunity at the Intersection of Energy Systems and Transportation

As electric vehicle sales continue to rev up in the United States, the electric grid is in parallel contending with the greatest transformation in its 100-year history: the large-scale integration of renewable energy and power electronic devices. The expected expansion of electric vehicles will shift those challenges into high gear, causing cities to face gigawatt growth in electricity demand and larger amounts of variable energy.

Although these are considerable challenges, NREL sees opportunity at the intersection of energy systems and transportation. Several projects at NREL are underway to study the interactions between those two sectors and approach the topic from many angles.

Read the full story about coordination between the grid and mobility sector.

Introducing DERCF: A Web-Based Tool and Cybersecurity Framework for Distributed Energy Systems

As increasing amounts of distributed energy resources are introduced into the bulk power system, the electric grid is transforming. Compared to traditional centralized generation, distributed energy resource systems result in complex, data-driven communications networks, requiring careful coordination—and constant vigilance to ensure that the grid assets are secure.

As highlighted in an NREL video, researchers developed the Distributed Energy Resources Cybersecurity Framework (DERCF) to get ahead of cyber adversaries and address these concerns. Developed with support from the DOE Federal Energy Management Program, the DERCF is a comprehensive tool that helps users pinpoint vulnerabilities in their distributed energy systems—based on unique facilities, personnel, and operational procedures. Read the NREL article on the DERCF to learn more.

NREL Brings Expertise in Energy Resilience to New Organizational Planning Resource

Long-standing leadership in resilience planning has resulted in a new resource from NREL that guides organizations through water and energy systems resilience. The Technical Resilience Navigator provides risk-informed, action-driven planning for stakeholders to identify and anticipate threats. The tool is now available and is already being piloted at federal research campuses.

NREL Expands Data Capability from Streams to Rivers

Data connects every corner of NREL research. It flows between laptop simulations and laboratory devices, between sensor arrays and simulated power systems, between validation results and an interactive visualization, and between partners and their projects on-site and off-site. Thanks to a recent upgrade, the data exchange that permeates NREL laboratories has become more suitable for research that shares and streams data among applications.

Read the full story about NREL's expansion to data analysis and visualization capabilities.

NREL Studies on Advanced Voltage Management Recognized at Industry Conference

Two papers from NREL authors received Best Paper recognition at the 2020 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power and Energy Society General Meeting, held virtually Aug. 3–6, 2020, where researchers convened to discuss progress in the domains of big data, machine learning, and electric transportation transforming the grid.

Both papers from NREL relate to advanced voltage management on distribution systems—a technical area that is increasingly challenged by fast-varying energy resources such as solar photovoltaics. These papers were selected by peers for recognition following presentations during the meeting.

One of the papers, "Machine Learning-Based Prediction of Distribution Network Voltage and Sensor Allocation," describes an approach for predicting voltage violations on distribution grids. By measuring certain buses of a distribution network, and by using a combination of machine learning methods, the authors show that voltage magnitudes can be accurately predicted for a variety of load scenarios. Specifically, the models were fine-tuned to perform well near the American National Standards Institute reliability limits of voltage when the accuracy of predictions need to be high—a detail typically not addressed by traditional algorithms. Such forecasting will help operators foresee disturbances as distributed energy resources become more common. The authors also describe an optimal allocation of sensors to monitor voltages without limiting or exceeding the necessary amount of measurements.

The other paper, "Data-Enhanced Hierarchical Control To Improve Distribution Voltage with Extremely High PV Penetration," concerns the control of voltage dynamics. In this paper, the authors explain an architecture for distribution system control that mixes utility assets—such as advanced distribution management systems and in-place voltage regulation equipment—with industry options for real-time control and regulation. The architecture combines NREL's algorithms for real-time optimal power flow with industry partner Varentec's grid-optimizing device and Schneider Electric's advanced distribution management systems to create a control solution that works for centralized utility operations and for distributed and diverse management options at the grid edge.

Q&A with Sakshi Mishra: Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change and Advocating for Women in STEM

Finding energy solutions for a changing global climate and advocating for women to choose careers in science and technology drive Sakshi Mishra's mission as an energy researcher and power systems engineer.

Since joining NREL in 2018, Mishra has worked in the Integrated Applications Center researching artificial intelligence (AI) approaches for accelerating the transition to clean and resilient energy infrastructure through smart energy systems design. She also leads the Denver chapter of Women in AI, a nonprofit think tank that promotes women in AI fields.

Read our Q&A with Sakshi Mishra.

USAID and NREL Curate Resilience Solutions for International Power System Planners

When a power system fails, consequences can be catastrophic, especially for at-risk or geographically isolated communities. With that context in mind, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-NREL Partnership developed the Resilient Energy Platform to assist developing nations with identifying power system vulnerabilities and planning resilient, sustainable, and secure power systems through the use of resources, data, tools, and direct technical assistance.

Since its launch in 2019, the Resilient Energy Platform published more than 15 quick reads that offer comprehensive analysis of cutting-edge areas of interest related to power system resilience—all in 10 pages or less. USAID regional missions and international government ministries can also engage directly with NREL staff in assessing their power system's threats and opportunities through the platform's technical assistance program. For example, NREL staff worked with Lao People's Democratic Republic on a vulnerability assessment and resilience action plan that addresses the country's specific power system concerns. Because power system threats continue to increase with the onset of new technologies and extreme weather events, the Resilient Energy Platform team will continue this type of technical assistance with countries that express interest in targeted engagement.

Read more about the Resilient Energy Platform and its resources in the full-length article on NREL News.

NREL Associate Lab Directors Envision Energy Systems Modernization

Expanding on a blog post from NREL Director Martin Keller, NREL associate laboratory directors Juan Torres and Johney Green discussed one aspect of NREL's 10-year plan: Integrated Energy Pathways.

Learn more about NREL's vision to modernize our energy systems.

Publication Roundup

Planning for the Storm: Considering Renewable Energy for Critical Infrastructure Resilience

Cost assessments of renewable energy often overlook the technology's broader value, such as its resilience, and how such resilience can avoid wider impact costs. This study, published in the Journal of Emergency Management, provides a benchmark of the value of battery storage and renewable energy to extend operation of critical infrastructure. The study used NREL's REopt™ (Renewable Energy Integration and Optimization) software to model three critical facilities in North Carolina and the resilience value that various hybrid renewable energy options could provide. Results indicate that without considering resilience, such hybrid systems currently might not be cost-effective investments in the model facilities; however, when the ability to extend operation from hours to weeks is incorporated, such options become economically viable.

Solar Photovoltaics in Severe Weather: Cost Considerations for Storm-Hardening Photovoltaic Systems for Resilience

When severe weather causes power disruptions, photovoltaics (PV) become even more important as a resilient energy source that can provide power during a blackout. Protecting and maintaining PV systems so they can withstand a natural disaster is critical to energy resilience. In a new NREL technical report, Solar Photovoltaics in Severe Weather: Cost Considerations for Storm Hardening PV Systems for Resilience, researchers provide in-depth initial cost estimates for several methods to harden PV systems against storms. The authors stress that the high quality of design features, construction, and installation are paramount to a storm-weathering PV system. The report is a useful resource for developers and other members of the PV industry to consider the costs of storm hardening a PV system versus costs of recovering, repairing, and repowering a damaged system. Researchers also provide guidelines for installing resilient PV systems in severe weather locations.

The Evolving U.S. Distribution System: Technologies, Architectures, and Regulations for Realizing a Transactive Energy Marketplace

This NREL technical report, The Evolving U.S. Distribution System: Technologies, Architectures, and Regulations for Realizing a Transactive Energy Marketplace, leads readers through the technical, economic, and regulatory details related to evolving distribution systems in the United States and the potential for developing transactive energy marketplaces—an envisioned grid architecture where power and services from distributed energy resources are dynamically priced and traded.

The authors detail the historic evolution of the power system, arriving at the modern design and its suitability for flexible and efficient economic controls. Along the way, the authors explain the impact and context of specific market factors: for example, power system deregulation opened the door to more dynamic market participation, and blockchain technology has enabled secure, real-time, energy-based transactions among strangers. The authors also consider several case studies in which transactive energy-like experiments are taking place, such as in New York, where the Reforming the Energy Vision regulatory proceeding is gradually implementing a distributed system platform. The report concludes by considering whether the combined factors of regulation, distributed energy resources, and control technologies will ultimately come together to strengthen the economic case for transactive energy.