Renewable Electricity-to-Grid Integration
NREL works with industry partners to optimize strategies for effectively interconnecting renewable resources with the electric grid.
NREL's renewable electric grid integration work includes research and development (R&D) on advanced inverters, advanced distribution management systems, distributed controls, and renewable resource management and forecasting.
INTEGRATE Project Targets a Smarter Grid
NREL's Integrated Network Testbed for Energy Grid Research and Technology Experimentation (INTEGRATE) project focuses on helping the grid accommodate more renewables.
The Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) bolsters the capabilities of NREL's grid integration research. At the ESIF, we can test out renewable technologies at actual power before actual interconnection with the grid. This helps manufacturers learn how to design these technologies to seamlessly integrate with the system, and it raises the confidence of utilities and investors to support their integration.
NREL's electric grid integration research is aligned with the U.S. Department of Energy's Grid Modernization Initiative as part of the Grid Modernization Lab Consortium. Learn more about NREL's grid modernization research.
NREL researchers and partners can leverage the following capabilities at the ESIF for electric grid integration research:
- Megawatt-scale power hardware-in-the-loop simulation capability to test grid scenarios with high penetrations of renewable energy technologies
- Interconnectivity to external field sites for data feeds and model validation
- Virtual utility operations center and visualization rooms
- Smart grid testing lab for advanced communications and control
- Multiple parallel alternating current and direct current experimental busses (megawatt power level) with grid simulation and loads.
Adding renewable energy sources such as solar to a utility's existing distribution systems can introduce much faster power dynamics and potentially stress voltage control devices to the point of premature failure. Advanced inverters—devices that convert direct current solar power into alternating current power for the grid—have features that could be used to help control voltage and make the grid more stable.
This solar inverter manufacturer validated its advanced photovoltaic inverter technology using the ESIF's power hardware-in-the-loop system and megawatt-scale grid simulators.
NREL validated inverters for Google's Little Box Challenge to help Google determine the winner.
NREL is validating the voltage control capabilities of smart inverters in modeled real-world scenarios.
The Hawaiian Electric Companies
NREL is providing critical information about the performance and impacts of today's advanced inverters to help plan for the future evolution of the Hawaiian Islands electric grids.
SolarCity and the Hawaiian Electric Companies
NREL is helping to address the safety, reliability, and stability challenges of interconnecting high penetrations of distributed photovoltaics with the electric power system.
NREL is helping this solar inverter manufacturer develop photovoltaic inverters with advanced features that can support the electric grid.
Advanced Distribution Management Systems
NREL enables utility partners, vendors, and researchers to evaluate existing and future advanced distribution management system (ADMS) use cases at the ESIF's national, vendor-neutral ADMS test bed. Example use cases include:
- Integration of transmission-to-building operations for demand response
- Incorporation of high penetrations of distributed energy resources including photovoltaics, storage, and demand response into utility operations for volt/volt-ampere reactive (volt/VAR) and other control objectives
- Coordination among traditional utility assets and embedded, islandable microgrids.
An ADMS integrates numerous utility systems and provides automated outage restoration and optimization of distribution grid performance. Its functions can include automated fault location, isolation, and service restoration; conservation voltage reduction; peak-demand management; and volt/VAR optimization.
NREL's distributed controls research aims to translate advances in optimization and control into breakthrough approaches and practical implementations to facilitate the development of sustainable and distributed infrastructures in energy systems. Current R&D efforts aim to leverage contemporary advances in optimization and control to develop distributed control frameworks for next-generation power systems that ensure stability, preserve reliability, and meet economic objectives and customer preferences.
Renewable Resource Management and Forecasting
NREL's renewable resource management and forecasting research focuses on measuring weather resources and power systems, forecasting resources and grid conditions, and converting measurements into operational intelligence.
NREL's experts provide tools to accurately assess renewable energy density as it varies with time and location as well as information on how to design efficient renewable energy systems for integration with the electric grid.
Learn more about our sensing, measurement, and forecasting work.
Center Director, Power Systems Engineering
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