DOE, NREL to open clean power grid integration center

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) in Golden, Colorado, as the latest DOE user facility and the only one in the nation focused on utility-scale clean energy grid integration.

Located at the NREL's campus in Golden, Colorado, the 182,500-square-foot facility will help both public and private sector researchers scale up promising renewable energy technologies — from solar modules and wind turbines to electric vehicles and efficient, interactive home appliances — and test how they interact with each other and the grid at utility-scale.

Congress provided $135 million to construct and equip the user facility. The president's FY 2014 budget request includes an additional $20 million for facility operations.

The facility's first industry partner — Colorado-based Advanced Energy Industries — has already signed on to start work at ESIF, developing lower cost, better performing solar power inverters.

As the first industry partner to use ESIF, Advanced Energy Industries is testing its new solar photovoltaic (PV) inverter technology with the facility's utility-scale grid simulators and hardware-in-the-loop systems. Solar inverters are responsible for a number of critical functions within a solar PV system, including converting the direct current output into alternating current for the grid. Advanced Energy's inverter will help support a smarter grid that can handle two-way flows of power and communication while reducing hardware costs.

The facility is aimed at overcoming generation, transmission, distribution and end-use challenges to support a cleaner, affordable and more secure U.S. energy mix, including research into next generation building technologies, microgrids, energy storage batteries and utility-scale renewable energy.

ESIF will house more than 15 experimental laboratories and several outdoor test beds, including an interactive hardware-in-the-loop system that lets researchers and manufacturers test their products at full power and real grid load levels. The facility will also feature a petascale supercomputer that can support large-scale modeling and simulation at one quadrillion operations per second.

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