The Energy Department and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have established the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) in Golden, Colo., as the latest DOE user facility and the only one in the nation focused on utility-scale clean energy grid integration.
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.
A spokeswoman for NREL said construction was completed on the ESIF facility in March, and the official open date will be August 21. In the meantime, work continues on setting up labs and some testing has begun was Advanced Energy Industries.
ESIF will allow partnerships between government and academia with manufacturers and utilities to help integrate more renewable energy into a smarter, more resilient power grid. The 182,500-sq-foot ESIF will help both public and private sector researchers scale-up promising 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.
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.
ESIF is aimed at overcoming generation, transmission, distribution and end-use challenges to support a cleaner, affordable and more secure US energy mix, including research into next generation building technologies, microgrids, energy storage batteries and utility-scale renewable energy.
The Energy Systems Integration Facility is the latest addition to the DOE’s national network of user facilities. Corporate users pay the full cost of conducting research and retain their intellectual property and data rights, while users who agree to publish their research results are charged a discounted fee.
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 DOE encourages utilities, manufacturers, universities and other national labs to fully utilize ESIF’s unique capabilities and resources.
As the first industry partner to use ESIF, Advanced Energy Industries is testing its new solar 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.