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Increasing Power Expands Research Capabilities at NREL’s Flatirons Campus

July 21, 2020

NREL Flatirons Campus

Wind energy, water power, and grid integration research conducted at NREL’s Flatirons Campus gained a boost with a recent upgrade to the power capacity at the facility. Photo by Joshua Bauer, NREL

In partnership with Xcel Energy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Golden Field Office, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) completed its Power Generation Upgrade Project, increasing and enhancing research capabilities at NREL’s Flatirons Campus to explore integrated energy systems at scale and the incorporation of distributed energy resources into the grid.

The project doubles the power at NREL’s Flatirons Campus, from 10 megawatts (MW) to 19.9 MW, an upgrade that is key to the campus’ Integrated Energy Systems at Scale (IESS) research mission.

“We are drastically changing the capabilities at the Flatirons Campus,” said Associate Laboratory Director for Facilities and Operations Dan Beckley. “We are now able to deliver unique capabilities that do not exist anywhere in the world.”

The Flatirons Campus is becoming the standard for advanced grid research facilities, allowing real-world study of the effects of multiple technologies on a grid rather than relying solely on computer simulations. However, the constrained power capacity had previously limited research.

The interconnection moves the Flatirons Campus from a localized distributed network (at 34.5 kilovolts), which connects with businesses and homes in the area, to the 115-kilovolt regional transmission network, thereby improving opportunities to explore bidirectional power flow between the grid and research activities on site. The upgrade promises to unlock further insights into how real-time control and optimization of distributed renewable energy resources interact with the larger power grid.

The new 19.9-MW transmission interconnection improves grid integration research, enabling projects that ensure the reliability and resiliency of a national power grid, which is seeing increasing levels of interconnection from megawatt-scale renewable energy generation and storage technologies.

Paired with other highly specialized pieces of research equipment like the controllable grid interfaces, the new interconnection enables Flatirons Campus researchers and their partners to more effectively conduct research on the performance, cost, reliability, sustainability, and resilience of complex hybrid energy systems.

“This project is a huge milestone that will greatly improve our ability to host new research partnerships at the Flatirons Campus,” said Associate Laboratory Director Johney Green. “It’s been a great collaboration between our teams here at NREL and our industry collaborators.”

Learn more about the wind energy, water power, and grid integration research conducted at the Flatirons Campus and NREL partnerships.