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Solar Energy Innovation Network

The Solar Energy Innovation Network is a collaborative research effort administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office that uses real-world data to address the long-term challenges of increasing the reliability and resilience of the electrical grid.

In order to address the nation’s rapidly changing electricity needs, data-driven research foundations and mechanisms need to be in place to inform future system designs across the multitude of locational conditions. The Solar Energy Innovation Network is designed to identify the systemic and unknown knowledge barriers preventing utilities, state and local authorities, regional planning commissions, and the solar industry from creating the innovative solutions needed to meet the country’s evolving demands for the electric grid.

This program aims to create cross-cutting, future-looking research that enables participants to address both known and unknown challenges related to solar integration. The program seeks to economically and efficiently prepare for long-term challenges now, and evaluate where innovation is needed.

Program Structure

Through a competitive solicitation process in summer 2017, NREL sought applicants for multi-stakeholder teams to participate in the program and conduct real-world research that can be applied in a given location. Applications were reviewed by internal and external experts, and participating communities were invited to join the research effort in October 2017.

Each team consists of a utility and/or an authority having jurisdiction, as well as innovative companies, nonprofits, local solar industry experts, and academics. Cycles of topic-driven cohorts focus on new and emerging challenges related to high levels of renewable energy on the grid and the need for increasing grid flexibility and resiliency.

Through coordinated engagement within the cohorts, teams work together to identify local and regional impacts, formulate and test innovations, and validate new models. Participants are also assigned to peer networks to cross-pollinate solutions across varying geographies, market and rate structures, infrastructure, and grid characteristics. This deepens participant research learning and strengthens outcomes.

Over the course of 12 to 18 months, teams receive analytical support and direction from NREL, ensuring the academic rigor and viability of resulting solutions. The outcomes of each research cycle feed into the continual development and testing of new concepts, models, and designs. This process takes into account real-world considerations and the dynamic energy landscape, leading to an end product that’s sound and that includes insights that are only available through the use of real-world scenarios.

Contact

Please direct questions to the program administrator at SEIN@nrel.gov.