Real-Time Optimization and Control of Next-Generation Distribution Infrastructure

This project develops an innovative control architecture for distributed energy resource systems that addresses the unique needs of utility companies, distributed energy resource aggregators, and end customers who own grid assets.

 Illustration of centralized, decentralized, and distributed control architectures.

This new architecture is applicable to distribution systems, microgrids, and soft microgrids such as community, campus, and neighborhood systems connected to the rest of the grid. The architecture unifies real-time voltage and frequency control at the level of the home, building, or energy resource with networkwide power management at the level of the utility or aggregator.

This real-time optimization and control architecture enables:

  • Optimization of an entire distribution grid to increase system efficiency and reliability
  • Feeders, neighborhoods, and communities to emulate virtual power plants providing services (such as frequency support, regulating services, or capacity reserves) to the grid while addressing operational objectives
  • Reliable integration and seamless, large-scale coordination of distributed energy resources
  • 100% integration of renewable energy resources
  • Interoperability with legacy grid components and advanced distribution management systems.

This project is part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Network Optimized Distributed Energy Systems (NODES) program. The project team includes NREL, California Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota, Harvard University, and Southern California Edison.

Outcomes and Impact

  • First-of-kind hardware-in-the-loop experiments with more than 100 physical devices at power
  • Field demonstrations at the Stone Edge Farm microgrid and in a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in Basalt, Colorado
  • More than 40 scientific publications.
  • Commercialization efforts through the OptGrid platform


Real-Time Optimization and Control of Next-Generation Distribution Infrastructure, NREL Presentation (2020)

Final Report for ARPA-E NODES “Real-Time Optimization and Control of Next-Generation Distribution Infrastructure” Project, NREL Technical Report (2021)


Andrey Bernstein

Group Manager/Senior Researcher, Energy Systems Control and Optimization