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Views of the ESIF: Five Years Back, Five Years Forward

Sept. 28, 2018

In celebration of five years since the ESIF’s dedication, the facility’s leadership reflect on its use now, and look ahead.



Driving the Need

As the cost of renewable and distributed energy technologies was decreasing, it was becoming apparent that the industry needed a place where they could understand the impact of these advanced technologies in a systems context. Utilities, technology developers, and grid researchers needed a place where they could build up full-scale microgrids and distribution systems and conduct experiments on how these technologies would impact larger grids and energy systems.
—Ben Kroposki, Director of Power Systems Engineering Center

Unique Assets

By far, the ESIF’s greatest assets are the research and operational staff. Sure, the ESIF is a state-of-the-art facility with leading-edge capabilities, but without the brilliant and hard-working people who operate and utilize it to its highest potential, there would be no impact.
—Chad Blake, Director of Lab Facilities

The ESIF’s impact is defined by the capabilities that attract such innovative partners to collaborate with us. The ESIF’s role as a user facility provides the flexibility that partners require to explore projects that they couldn’t execute anywhere else.
—Martha Symko-Davies

Transforming Energy

The need for computational science to support energy systems integration research has only grown over the past five years as researchers are looking beyond the fundamental properties of energy technologies to the complex interactions between elements of our energy system, toward a holistic view of how water, thermal, fuels, transportation, and gas interact with the electric grid. We’re now able to use our visualization capabilities in the ESIF Insight Center to run models and simulations at the community scale, to see how multiple levels of a system interact in real time, enabling rapid exploration of energy system transformation options.  
—Steve Hammond, Director, Computational Science Center

The ESIF has allowed much more integrated experiments that combine both software controls and modeling with actual hardware at a scale that matters. This integrated power hardware-in-the-loop has changed how we evaluate the impact of new technologies on the grid. The ESIF allowed the integration of high-performance computing (HPC) capabilities to be used for grid and energy research, which greatly improved the level of detail that we can provide in simulations.
—Ben Kroposki

Five Years from Now

In five years, we would like to see further integration of power hardware-in-the loop with simulations run on the HPC. We will see the ability to evaluate large deployments of new technologies and control systems across cities and larger regions. This is the scale where NREL will make the largest impact on transforming our energy system.
—Ben Kroposki

Looking forward, our priority is to steward the ESIF’s ever-changing capabilities to ensure they remain aligned with the NREL strategy, EERE’s goals, and ahead of industry needs.
—Chad Blake

Within the next five years, we expect to run several large-scale electricity grid analyses on our supercomputer as our researchers take advantage of HPC to run simulations of energy systems with faster speeds and higher fidelity than ever before. The sky is the limit, especially with the focus on exascale computing; we’re participating in DOE’s Exascale Computing Project—which will have profound impacts on accelerating breakthrough modeling and simulation solutions across the DOE mission space. For now, our eyes are on Eagle, and the significant boost in computational capability it will bring to our research community to support our mission.
—Steve Hammond