SunShot National Laboratory Multiyear Partnership (SuNLaMP) – Systems Integration Subprogram – FY16-18

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The SunShot National Laboratory Multiyear Partnership (SuNLaMP) funding program enables our country’s national laboratories to conduct research and development that will enable hundreds of gigawatts of solar energy to be integrated reliably and cost-effectively onto the U.S. electric power grid. As the number of photovoltaic (PV) installations grows exponentially over time, it is imperative that our grid is able to handle large amounts of distributed energy. The work of the national laboratories continues to be instrumental in accelerating progress towards and addressing the most critical barriers to achieving the SunShot goals.

The projects under the Systems Integration SuNLaMP funding program are part of the Energy Department's Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium, which supports critical research and development in advanced storage systems, clean energy integration, standards and test procedures, and a number of other key grid modernization areas. This effort recognizes regional differences and will strengthen regional strategies while defining a diverse and balanced national strategy.

Additional SuNLaMP awards also go to teams working in concentrating solar power, photovoltaics, soft costs, and technology to market research areas. Learn more about the SuNLaMP awards in other subprograms.

Approach

Projects funded under SuNLaMP for the systems integration subprogram evaluate grid performance and reliability, dispatchability, power electronics, and communications. As the solar industry moves towards achieving the SunShot Initiative goals, electric power systems must evolve to handle large-scale changes in the planning and operations of transmission and distribution networks. Solar power must also be available on-demand, when and where it is needed, in the desired amounts, and in a manner that is comparable to or better than conventional power plants. SuNLaMP projects in Systems Integration specifically address these challenges.

Objectives

These projects will work to develop cost-effective solutions that ensure the overall safety, reliability, and security of the electric grid. They will also solve the dispatchability challenges of grid-connected solar plants, develop solutions that leverage transformative power electronics technologies to enhance solar power conversion and energy flow in the transmission and distribution grids and on customer premises, and develop new communication and control architectures to collect, store, visualize, and analyze the rapidly-growing amount of real time operation data.

Awardees

Project: Additively Manufactured Photovoltaic Inverter
Location: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $4,478,288
Awardee Cost Share: $60,000
Project Summary: Integrating hundreds of gigawatts of photovoltaic (PV) solar power onto our country’s electric grid requires transformative power conversion system designs that find a balance between performance, reliability, functionality and cost. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will lead this project to develop a unique PV inverter design that combines the latest wide bandgap high-voltage Silicon Carbide (SiC) semiconductor devices with new technologies, such as additive manufacturing and multi-objective magnetic design optimization. By developing an additively manufactured PV inverter (AMPVI), NREL researchers aim to significantly reduce the cost of PV power electronics.

Project: Combined PV/Battery Grid Integration with High Frequency Magnetics Enabled Power Electronics
Location: National Energy Technology Laboratory, Pittsburgh, PA
SunShot Award Amount: $4,238,040
Awardee Cost Share: $276,895
Project Summary: This project will develop new power electronics devices, systems, and materials to address power electronic and dispatchability challenges that result from connecting hundreds of gigawatts of solar energy onto the electricity grid. These devices will incorporate advanced high-frequency (HF) magnetics along with the latest wide bandgap silicon carbide (SiC) switches. This design enables cost-effective grid integration of PV while increasing its dispatchability.

Project: System Advisor Model
Location: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $2,232,001
Project Summary: This project focuses on the System Advisor Model (SAM) software created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). SAM is a performance and finance model designed to facilitate decision making for people involved in the renewable energy industry. SAM makes performance predictions and cost of energy estimates for grid-connected power projects based on installation, operating costs, and system design parameters that users enter into the tool. This project will improve and maintain many features of the tool that has been instrumental in advancing the solar industry. Basic maintenance for the PVWatts Calculator tool will also be completed.

Project: Dynamic Building Load Control to Facilitate High Penetration of Solar Photovoltaic Generation
Location: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN
SunShot Award Amount: $3,000,000
Project Summary: This project aims to develop, demonstrate, and validate a sensing and control mechanism for using power loads to address variable photovoltaic (PV) generation, which will reduce two-way power flow and mitigate voltage instability on distribution level circuits. The availability of this technology will enable increased penetration of renewables while weakening the challenges that arise due to their intermittency in generation by using flexibility on load side.

Project: Concentrating Solar Power in a Sunshot Future
Location: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $612,500
Project Summary: This project will investigate concentrating solar power (CSP) and its ability to increase the overall penetration of solar energy while lessening the variability impacts of solar photovoltaics (PV). CSP is unique among solar technologies in that it can provide dispatchable energy through high-efficiency thermal energy storage. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will analyze next-generation CSP plants and their ability to provide valuable grid services.

Project: Secure, Scalable, Stable Control and Communications for Distributed PV
Location: Sandia National Laboratory, Albuquerque, NM
SunShot Award Amount: $2,700,000
Project Summary: This project will enable high penetrations of solar generation on the grid by updating the current technical metrics for grid communications with a new distributed control and communications architecture that clearly explains the impact of each metric on the grid. A clearer understanding of the variability of each metric will result in optimal levels of performance, reliability, cost and security.

Project: Opportunistic Hybrid Communications Systems for Distributed PV Coordination
Location: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $2,709,398
Project Summary: As more distributed solar power is added to the electric power grid and becomes an increasing proportion of total energy generation, the grid must support more stringent requirements to ensure continued reliable and cost-effective grid operations. New communications systems are needed to allow for bidirectional information exchange between distributed photovoltaic (PV) generators and various information and controls systems of the electric power grid. This project at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will develop a hybrid communications system to meet the needs of monitoring and controlling millions of distributed PV generators, while taking advantage of existing communications infrastructure, which will greatly reduce the costs necessary to provide these services.

Project: Accelerating Systems Integration Codes and Standards (ASICS)
Location: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $3,000,000
Project Summary: This project focuses on accelerating the revision process of the IEEE 1547 series and UL 1741 standards and testing procedures. Collectively, these standards are the foundational documents in the U.S. that are mandated for integrating solar energy systems with the electric distribution grid. Establishing accelerated development of new interconnection and interoperability requirements and conformance procedures will allow for more photovoltaic (PV) solar energy to be added to the grid.

Project: Frequency Response Assessment and Improvement of Three Major North American Interconnections due to High Penetrations of Photovoltaic Generation
Location: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN
SunShot Award Amount: $2,200,000
Awardee Cost Share: $107,853
Project Summary: As the number of solar photovoltaic (PV) installations continues to grow exponentially, one of the major challenges to grid stability will be mitigating decreasing system inertia and deteriorating frequency response. Preliminary independent studies on two North American interconnections have already demonstrated that the overall frequency response will deteriorate significantly with increasing renewable generation. This project will investigate the frequency response and system inertia impacts with high PV penetration levels for all three major interconnections, namely the Eastern Interconnection, Western Interconnection, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Project: Rapid QSTS Simulations for High-Resolution Comprehensive Assessment of Distributed PV Impacts
Location: Sandia National Laboratory, Albuquerque, NM
SunShot Award Amount: $4,000,000
Awardee Cost Share: $809,572
Project Summary: This project, led by Sandia National Laboratory and supported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will accelerate Quasi Static Time Series (QSTS) simulation capabilities through the use of new and innovative methods for advanced time-series analysis. Currently, QSTS analysis is not commonly performed in photovoltaic (PV) interconnection studies because of the data requirements and computational burden. This project will address both of these issues by developing advanced QSTS methods that greatly reduce the required computational time and by developing high-proxy data sets.

Project: CyDER: A Cyber Physical Co-simulation Platform for Distributed Energy Resources in Smart Grids
Location: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $4,000,000
Project Summary: This project focuses on developing a modular, scalable, and interoperable tool for power system planning and operation that will seamlessly integrate with utilities’ existing tools to enable analysis of high penetration of distributed energy resources. The tool, Cyber Physical Co-simulation Platform for Distributed Energy Resources in Smart Grids (CyDER), will enhance current utility tools by providing a computationally efficient platform that will be capable of quasi-static time series simulation and smart PV inverter controls with in-feed data from real-time distribution sensor measurements.

Project: An Integrated Tool for Improving Grid Performance and Reliability of Combined Transmission-Distribution with High Solar Penetration
Location: Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL
SunShot Award Amount: $2,800,000
Project Summary: High penetration of solar photovoltaics (PV) in electric power grids has created a need for changes to power system planning and operations analysis. Important technical issues such as two-way power flow, coordination of protection devices, transmission-distribution interaction, and reduction in inertia need to be resolved to enable a greater deployment of solar generation. To overcome these technical barriers, this project will develop a suite of software tools that creates a holistic understanding of the steady-state and transient behavior of transmission-distribution networks’ interaction under high PV penetration levels, along with the capability of real-time monitoring of the distribution systems and integration of system protection.

Project: Enabling High Penetration of Distributed Photovoltaics through the Optimization of Sub-Transmission Voltage Regulation
Location: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA
SunShot Award Amount: $3,000,000
Project Summary: This project will develop a coordinated real-time sub-transmission volt-var control tool (CReST-VCT) to optimize the use of reactive power control devices for stabilizing voltage fluctuations caused by intermittent photovoltaic (PV) outputs. In order to capture the full value of the volt-var optimization, the project team will couple this tool with an optimal future sub-transmission volt-var planning tool (OFuST-VPT) for short- and long-term planning analyses. Together, these real-time control and planning tools will remove a major roadblock in the increased penetrations of utility scale and residential PV.

Project: Visualization and Analytics of Distribution Systems with Deep Penetration of Distributed Energy Resources (VADER)
Location: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Menlo Park, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $4,000,000
Awardee Cost Share: $57,125
Project Summary: For high penetration of distributed energy resources (DER) like solar, electric power grid operators and planners must be able to incorporate large datasets from photovoltaic (PV) sources, local and line mounted precision instruments, customer load data from smart meters, and EV charging data into their analyses. This project will design and implement a platform for the visualization and analytics of distribution systems with high penetrations of distributed energy resources (VADER). VADER is a unified data analytics platform that will enable the integration of massive and varied data streams for real-time monitoring with analytics, visualization, and control of DERs in distribution networks.

Project: Stabilizing the Power System in 2035 and Beyond: Evolving from Grid-Following to Grid-Forming Distributed Inverter Controllers
Location: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $3,849,999
Project Summary: Adding large amounts of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy onto the grid creates significant challenges for future grid operations, since the electric power grid currently operates with rotational inertia from fossil fuel-driven machines. However, PV inverters are power-electronic devices with no inherent inertia. This project will develop a suite of inverter controllers to ensure the long-term viability of electric power grid infrastructure and address the large reductions in system-wide inertia with high penetrations of PV. These grid-forming inverter controllers will allow each inverter to act as a controllable voltage source that dynamically adjusts its output to ensure system-level stability, synchronization, and voltage regulation.

Learn more about SunShot’s other systems integration and SuNLaMP awards.