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Department of Energy Laboratories Test Virtual Nuclear-Renewable Hybrid Plant

Two national laboratories have completed a test of a virtual nuclear-renewable hybrid power plant.

The test involved a solar array, battery storage system, hydrogen fuel electrolyzer, and a controllable grid interface at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., connected via a high-speed fiber optic network to simulations of a small modular nuclear reactor and high-temperature electrolysis unit at Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and its partners, NuScale Power Fluor Corporation, and the Department of Energy, are developing a small modular reactor project at an Idaho National Laboratory facility.

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and NuScale Power, along with Shell Global Solutions, are also assessing a process for producing hydrogen using small modular nuclear reactors.

The Colorado and Idaho operations were connected in real time using the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network that uses fiber optic cable to provide high-speed, low-latency, and low-jitter data connections. The researchers said the connection created a “Super Lab” that allowed them to study energy systems currently not in existence to demonstrate that renewable and nuclear energy, combined within a hybrid system, can complement each other to support the grid.

During the demonstration, the researchers simulated a sudden loss in solar power from a passing cloud, and the nuclear reactor stepped in to support grid demand. 

The tested scenarios provide developers a baseline and high-quality operational data for how hybrid renewables-nuclear designs might operate together for a reliable power grid, the researchers said.

For the next SuperLab demonstration, scheduled for late 2023, Department of Energy researchers plan to simulate a national-scale disaster across eight national laboratories to study how a major outage from a hurricane or cyberattack would play out on a distributed energy system. The scale of the experiment would involve 10,000 devices and be much larger than previous demonstrations, they said.