Powering Strong Communities

NREL, Partners Developing Facility To Test Storage-Renewables Technologies

With support from the Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium, three national laboratories are developing a variable hybrid power plant with energy storage at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Flatirons Campus in Arvada, Colo.

NREL, with its partners, Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and Sandia National Laboratories, will use the FlexPower facility to test hybrid renewable energy.

“This research will help accelerate the adoption of utility-scale variable wind and [photovoltaic] resources by demonstrating how hybridization can smooth the transition to clean energy,” Vahan Gevorgian, NREL’s chief engineer, said in a statement. “For the power grid to economically and reliably integrate large amounts of variable renewable generation, it will require robust energy storage capabilities and a rethinking of the value renewable energy assets bring to the grid.”

The researchers’ underlying thesis is that combining renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar plants, with energy storage can transform those variable resources into fully dispatchable and flexible energy sources capable of operating in day-ahead and real-time energy markets and providing essential reliability and resiliency services to the grid.

The researchers plan to test their thesis with a variety of energy storage systems, including pumped storage hydropower, battery, hydrogen, flow battery, kinetic, and ultracapacitor energy storage. They will also focus on advanced control strategies and resource forecast techniques.

The aim is to be able to use sophisticated control systems to improve the dispatchability and availability of variable generation by taking advantage of the complementary nature of wind and solar resources and increasing capacity factors for renewable projects with minimum or no additional transmission buildup.

With improved forecasting, hybrid plants also should be able to participate in energy and ancillary services markets in the same way conventional generation plants do, NREL said.

The researchers also anticipate that by combining generation, storage, advanced controls, and improved forecasting, operators will be able to achieve economies of scale by sharing infrastructure as well as siting and permitting costs.

They also envision that such hybrid plants would be able to provide a spectrum of essential reliability services as well as new, evolving grid reliability services. As examples they cited self-black starts as well as power system black starts; operation in islanded mode; and participation in power system restoration schemes.

The FlexPower project will provide a test bed for companies and researchers to validate and demonstrate hybrid plant concepts and strategies. The research results will be freely accessible to all stakeholders in the form of public domain information and other assets.

“Hybrid renewable energy plants could introduce the national and global energy sectors to a new and potentially disruptive class of power systems,” Gevorgian said. “The result could be high-value grid services and a more secure and resilient power supply.”