Energy Systems Integration Newsletter: June 2023

In this edition, a new tool evaluates power electronic devices before they are connected to the grid, a multiyear study looks at sustainable aviation opportunities, Clayton Barrows discusses innovations supporting climate resilience, and more.

Group of people stand outside in front of solar panels.

Eyes on Power Electronics: Industry Discusses Grid Instability at NREL

An industry workshop wrapped up at NREL last month where attendees witnessed the latest research equipment for analyzing and preventing grid instabilities. NREL’s Power Electronics Grid Interface can evaluate devices before they are connected to the grid, which is urgently needed for a new generation of power electronic technologies. NREL demonstrated a live stability analysis of an on-site solar array and presented recent work in power electronic integration.

Colorado Gets Serious About Sustainable Aviation

NREL and the Colorado Department of Transportation have embarked on a multiyear study to determine how sustainable aviation can best serve Coloradans. It will be the first study by a state transit organization, and it will focus on the potential economic and environmental benefits of deploying regional air mobility, electrified aircraft, and alternative fuels throughout Colorado’s 76 public-use airports. Check out the full story on sustainable aviation.

Clayton Barrows Reflects on a Decade at NREL

On a road trip 15 years ago, Clayton Barrows passed by NREL and thought out loud about pursuing a meaningful career in power systems modeling at the lab. Today, he is the group manager of Grid Operations Planning in NREL’s Grid Planning and Analysis Center.

Earlier this year, he celebrated two career milestones: his 10-year anniversary at the lab and the official debut of Sienna, an open-source ecosystem for the comprehensive simulation and optimization of modern energy systems.

In our latest Q&A, Barrows reflects on how his research interests have enabled him to play a role in transforming energy and how NREL modeling and analysis innovations such as Sienna support climate resilience in Puerto Rico and beyond.

Converting Carbon to Fuels: Article Explains Where CO2 Electrolysis Stands

To reach net-zero carbon emissions globally, we’ll have to get creative. One idea is to capture carbon-dioxide from waste streams and convert it into fuels through CO2 electrolysis, powered by renewable energy. A new article by NREL authors in the journal Joule reviews the factors affecting deployment of CO2 electrolysis, including the relative advantages of different hardware, considerations around efficiency, and integration with renewable energy systems and markets. Read the full story.

Delegation From Bangladesh Visits NREL To Explore Opportunities for Accelerating Clean Energy Goals

In early May, a delegation from Bangladesh—the longest-running country partner in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and NREL partnership—visited NREL’s world-class facilities, including the Flatirons Campus, where they learned about cutting-edge turbine technologies, grid integration, and wind modeling. The group of leaders from the Government of Bangladesh, the USAID Bangladesh field office, and USAID’s  program also met with NREL researchers to discuss cutting-edge clean energy solutions.

Bangladesh is pursuing an aggressive renewable energy integration strategy, with a goal of achieving 40% clean power generation by 2041. Learn more about the visit and how this USAID-NREL partnership is helping Bangladesh achieve its clean energy goals.

Awards for NREL Employees in Energy Systems Integration

Several NREL researchers were recently recognized for their accomplishments in energy systems integration. Jesse Dugan won a best presentation award at the 2023 IEEE GreenTech Conference in April for her paper Assessment of Social Vulnerability to Long-Duration Power Outages in the United States. Additionally, four research teams from NREL’s Power Systems Engineering Center won best paper awards from the IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting, which will be held in July. Following is a summary of the awarded IEEE Power and Energy Society papers. Congratulations to all.

Join the July 12 Webinar: Potential Environmental Liability for Clean Energy on Mine Land

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations is now offering a series of webinars through its Clean Energy on Mine Land program. The program provides technical assistance to inform decision-making on topics related to developing clean energy projects on current and former mine land. Register for the Clean Energy on Mine Land July 12 webinar.

Preparing Solar Photovoltaic Systems Against Storms

The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. To help solar system owners prepare, NREL energy resilience experts compiled checklists designed for communities that are vulnerable to hurricanes. This resource is based on lessons learned from the 2017 hurricane season in Puerto Rico that can be applied to any community facing hurricanes. Post-event reports and site assessments indicated that much of the damage to PV systems could have been avoided by taking relatively simple pre-storm preventive measures. The checklists,  available in English and Spanish, provide clear steps for PV system owners and technicians working with utility-scale ground-mounted systems, distributed ground-mounted systems, and distributed rooftop systems.

Job Postings

Interested in joining NREL? We are rapidly growing and looking to fill a variety of positions. Following are job openings within NREL’s Energy Systems Integration team. Check out the NREL careers page to find even more opportunities and explore a future with NREL.

Publications Roundup

Autonomous Restoration of Networked Microgrids Using Communication-Free Smart Sensing and Protection Units, IEEE Transactions on Sustainable Energy (2023)

This paper presents the autonomous restoration of networked microgrids using distributed energy resources, inverter-based resources, and controllable assets of intelligence without communication to achieve a resilient power system restoration. The main innovation is in the use of real-time smart sensing and decision-making that enable the autonomous recombination of islanded microgrids, which are individually black-started by local grid-forming inverter units. This work validates the high potential of extremely resilient microgrids using novel approaches for inverter-based, bottom-up system restoration in a communication-free paradigm.

Road to Zero: Research and Industry Perspectives on Zero-Emission Commercial Vehicles

Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are only a small fraction of vehicles on the road but disproportionately contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from the transportation sector. Given the large variety of vehicle types and applications, multiple technologies offer opportunities to decarbonize medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including battery electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and sustainable liquid fuels. In this paper, the authors provide an overview of the status, opportunities, challenges, and uncertainties for these competing—and potentially complementary—technologies, including consideration of supporting infrastructure and prospects for future success.

Seamless Transition of Critical Infrastructures Using Droop Controlled Grid-Forming Inverters, IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics (2023)

Seamless recovery of power to critical infrastructure, after a grid failure, is crucial in scenarios that are increasingly frequent. This article proposes a seamless transition strategy using unified, mode-dependent, droop-controlled, grid-forming inverters. The control strategy:

  1. Regulates the output active and reactive power by the droop-controlled inverters to a desired value while operating in on-grid mode
  2. Achieves seamless transition and recovery of power injections into the load after grid failure by inverters that operate in grid-forming mode all the time
  3. Requires only a single bit of information on the grid/network status for the mode transition.