NREL's new smart grid lab focuses on interconnection



Quick Take:  Researchers and companies that need to test their ability to connect to a smart grid have a new state-of-the-art facility. Although the DOE has grid research underway at several other national labs, the NREL facility will focus on the interconnection piece. Thanks to a supercomputer, the lab has the ability to simulate a large grid to test what happens when devices connect. Nor is the facility aimed just at basic research -- it also intends to "rent" its capabilities to outside business. - Jesse Berst


The Denver Post talked with researchers about the new $135 million Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) located on the NREL campus in Golden, Colorado.  There are 15 research labs, all linked by a supercomputer, in the 182,000 square foot facility that will house 200 researchers and scientists.


As the Post story explains, by replicating the power grid, the lab offers researchers an opportunity to test integration of a wide variety of technologies - from energy storage to smart appliances. Companies will also be able to pay a fee to use the facilities to test and refine their equipment and work with researchers.


According to NREL it is one of the only megawatt-scale test facilities in the U.S. that integrates electricity, thermal and fuel systems with high performance modeling and simulation capabilities.


"The question is how to connect all the different kinds of work â€" generation, storage, distribution, appliances â€" and understand how they interact on the grid," James Cale, an NREL senior researcher, told the Post.


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Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.


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