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INTEGRATE Project Points to New Methods of Electric Grid Control 

January 27, 2017

Bethany Sparn is pictured with a communicating pool pump that can adjust its speed to provide grid services.

NREL researcher Bethany Sparn uses a communicating pool pump that can adjust its speed to provide grid services. Photo by John de la Rosa

The US. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and partners working under the Integrated Network Testbed for Energy Grid Research and Technology Experimentation (INTEGRATE) project completed five successful technology demonstrations, bringing new solutions to today’s challenges in enabling the nation’s grid to handle greater amounts of renewable energy. All teams tested their technologies in NREL’s unique megawatt-scale Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), the nation's premier facility in support of research and development that aims to optimize energy systems at full power.  

INTEGRATE, part of DOE’s Grid Modernization Initiative, is a $6.5-million, cost-shared project between DOE and industry partners designed to discover how renewable energy systems and other clean energy technologies can be connected to a smart power grid in a "plug-and-play" manner—much like the way computers automatically connect to new devices that get plugged in by users. Projects included the University of Delaware’s s Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) Integration, the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Smart and Connected Consumer Devices, the EPRI and Schneider Electric Communication and Control Systems project, the OMNETRIC Group’s Microgrid Communications and Grid Edge Energy Management project, and Smarter Grid Solutions’ Active Network Management Integration project. 

"It’s great to see how well our INTEGRATE partners were able to leverage the ESIF’s capabilities and identify a number of opportunities to enhance the efficiency and reliability of today’s energy grid,” said Andrew Hudgins, NREL Energy Systems Integration project leader. “All five of the INTEGRATE projects point to new tools that are crucial in order for the grid to handle high penetrations of emerging renewable energy systems.” 

Integrating Vehicles with the Grid

The V2G project led by the University of Delaware developed an active state-of-charge management program that can insure enough charge for the next trip and provide grid services, while reducing the effects of battery degradation over time and quantifying the impact of V2G technologies on a battery’s lifespan. The research led to the team’s development of an open-source protocol that enables interaction with an abstract fleet of dispatch-optimized V2G vehicles, which enhances the optimization of resources and allows for greater amounts of distributed and variable renewable resources from vehicles on the grid. 

“Taking the electric vehicles and charging stations that we’ve been developing to NREL's ESIF was a fantastic opportunity,” said Willett Kempton, professor and principal investigator of electric vehicle research at the University of Delaware. “The ESIF grid simulator allowed us and our commercial partners to test against our equipment simulated grid faults and other conditions that can occur, on rare occasions, in the electric system.” 

Incorporating More Flexible Communications

The EPRI-led Smart and Connected Consumer Devices project showed how smart, connected consumer devices can support energy demand response capabilities to enable greater use of clean energy technologies. With access to the ESIF’s Systems Performance Lab, the team evaluated open-standard communication interfaces—which allow a wide range of devices to communicate with one another—to provide a flexible platform for the deployment of several control strategies. The team demonstrated the ability to integrate devices at any level to work collectively for homes, businesses, microgrids, or whole communities. 

“Using the concept of an open communications platform to create standard messaging to better manage smart, connected devices and distributed energy resource groups, EPRI and NREL were able to develop new control scenarios that could increase the density of renewable resources on a typical distribution feeder,” said John Simmins, technical executive at EPRI. 

Improving Interoperability and Control

EPRI also worked with Schneider Electric on an INTEGRATE project that demonstrated a new framework for distributed resource communications. The project sought to resolve challenges that utilities face in receiving information about the state of their electric grids. The System Communication team combined EPRI’s distributed energy resource management system (DERMS) with Schneider Electric’s advanced distribution management system (ADMS) to develop  communication, information, and computation (CIC) layers that support system-level grid control. EPRI designed, built, and tested its open-source CIC infrastructure, enabling the team to improve interoperability and intelligent control of clean energy, grid edge devices. 

“The communication system solutions that we developed were integrated in order to model, monitor, analyze, control, and optimize a simulated utility grid in combination with physical feeder and edge devices such as capacitor banks, voltage regulators, solar inverters, pool pumps, water heaters, and more,” said Scott Koehler, vice president of global strategy for Schneider Electric’s Smart Grid IT division “But most importantly, this project advanced and validated new integration and communication standards required to support the adoption and deployment of distributed energy resources.” 

Innovating Grid Edge Control Communications

OMNETRIC Group, a systems integration company and Siemens and Accenture joint venture, also demonstrated an innovative grid edge control communications and control platform using Siemens’ Microgrid Management System and an Open-Field Message Bus (OpenFMB) framework. The new framework enables the electric grid to effectively support large-scale and complex operations, addressing interoperability with equipment and systems operating on the grid. 

The system was first developed and validated in the ESIF with a combination of hardware and software simulations that represent real-world utility scale operations. Working with project partners Duke Energy, CPS Energy, and the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA), the system was demonstrated on two in-field functional microgrids—one owned by Duke Energy and a second at the Texas military facility Joint Base San Antonio. 

“We were able to successfully verify a new grid framework and integrate Siemens Microgrid management software with intelligent and legacy grid systems,” said Shailendra Grover, senior manager of Smart Grid Integration & Security, OMNETRIC Group. “As a consequence, we can offer utilities augmented operational systems, enhanced integration with field devices, and better grid-edge interoperability and distributed intelligence, helping them move towards a smarter and greener future.” 

Siemens is excited to have its leading microgrid management software successfully installed, tested, and validated by project partners with NREL, Duke Energy, and CPS Energy. 

“Throughout this initiative, our software has demonstrated extensive security capabilities, optimization of solar and battery assets, and islanding coordination, all of which will be critical in helping power producers embrace agility and successfully integrate renewables across the country,” said Mike Carlson, president of Siemens Digital Grid.

Increasing Grid Hosting Capacity

The fifth technology demonstration, Smarter Grid Solutions’ Active Network Management (ANM) systems, showed a flexible and innovative solution to enhance grid hosting capacity and services for renewable energy through coordination of renewable energy generators and other types of distributed energy resources. The team demonstrated scalability of ANM systems with access to the ESIF’s laboratories and state-of-the-art modeling and simulation tools, as well as leveraging the facility’s power hardware in the loop and grid simulation capabilities.  

The project successfully demonstrated ANM in three use cases: a smart home, smart campus, and smart distribution network. The research also showed that dynamic grid hosting capacity can enable much higher penetrations of solar and wind energy on the distribution grid, achieving 50% penetration or more. 

“The INTEGRATE project was extremely successful as we were able to demonstrate advanced ANM functionality under a variety of representative power system scenarios, while engaging with industry leaders from distribution utilities, national labs, government and the distributed energy resource community,” said Smarter Grid Solutions Chief Technology Officer Bob Currie. “In just 18 months, we achieved a level of industry vetting, input, and promotion that might otherwise have taken us multiple years.”  

Learn more about the five INTEGRATE projects with the University of Delaware, EPRI, EPRI and Schneider Electric, OMNETRIC Group, and Smarter Grid Solutions. Technology demonstrations will be held at the ESIF for Siemens-OMNETRIC Industry Day as well as EPRI-Schneider Electric Industry Day workshops in March.