New Solar Research Center

a guest post by Ken Whiteside, Director of Business Development at ONTILITY, LLC.

New Solar Research Center

As renewable energy sources (notably wind and solar) become a more significant factor in the electricity production mix, integrating them smoothly and seamlessly into the electric grid poses some interesting challenges. To help address these challenges, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are working together on a new Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) in Golden, Colorado. The $135 million ESIF will provide a place for advanced research on utility-scale clean energy grid integration.

In a prepared statement, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said, "This new facility will allow for an even stronger partnership with manufacturers, utilities and researchers to help integrate more clean, renewable energy into a smarter, more reliable and more resilient power grid."

The 182,500-square-foot building, located on NREL’s campus, will house more than 15 experimental laboratories and several outdoor test beds. One of those, an interactive, megawatt-scale, hardware-in-the-loop system, lets researchers and manufacturers conduct integration tests at full power and under actual load levels in real-time simulations. This allows them to evaluate component and system performance before going to market. Researchers using the ESIF will also have access to super-computers at the High Performance Computing Data Center making possible unprecedented large-scale modeling and simulation of material properties, processes, and fully integrated systems that would otherwise be too expensive, too dangerous, or even impossible to study by direct experimentation.

Research facilities like the ESIF are seen by some as unnecessary and a misuse of public funds. In fact, though, they are vital to the development and deployment of the new technologies and products that we need to secure our energy future. I am reminded of Symantec, a public/private research facility created 20+ years ago for the semi-conductor industry. The naysayers were vocal then too, but the results have been nothing short of remarkable. From new technologies to direct employment opportunities to spin-off companies, Symantec has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on the computer chip industry. NREL’s new lab can have the same impact on the future of the electric grid and the widespread adoption of solar energy.

Ken Whiteside photo Ken Whiteside has been a fan of solar energy for decades. His first hands-on experience was installing solar on off-grid houses around Telluride, Colorado in the 1990’s (summer in the San Juan Mtns. - somebody had to do it). From his home in Austin, Ken writes and works for widespread adoption of solar electricity, smart energy production and use, and sustainability.

The opinions expressed by authors herein and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Graybar Electric Company, Inc. or any employee thereof. Graybar Electric Company, Inc. is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the authors or commenters. All the information on this website is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. Graybar Electric Company, Inc. does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on this website, is strictly at your own risk. Graybar Electric Company, Inc. will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website.