NREL partners with GE on microgrid development project


The U.S. Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has announced it will work with General Electric Company (GE) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on a new $8 million microgrid program.

The program – which has been funded by the Energy Department – will focus on the development of seven microgrid projects, with $1.2 million steered to each of the GE and EPRI-backed projects.

Both GE and the EPRI are exploring how microgrids can help cities and towns to better mitigate the effects of extreme weather events on their electricity networks.

NREL's involvement will be to test GE's and EPRI's microgrid controllers using its power hardware in-the-loop, which mimics real-time simulations at full power level and actual loads, and was developed as part of NREL's Energy System Integration Facility (ESIF).

For GE, the microgrid program will be closely aligned to the energy needs and power resources available in and around the area of Potsdam, New York, and will seek to address the problem of providing resilient power delivery to the local community, and efficient grid service to the utility. GE has the option of including 2 MW PV generation or to focus more on utilizing combined heat power generators.

NREL will test GE's microgrid controller in a 200 kW microgrid operating within the ESIF. In testing, the microgrid will be powered by a variety of on-site distributed energy resources, with other energy resources simulated using NREL’s power hardware in-the-loop technology.

"Microgrids support a flexible and efficient electric grid, enabling the integration of renewable and distributed energy resources such as wind and solar energy, combined heat and power, energy storage, and demand response," said NREL associate director for energy systems integration, Bryan Hannegan. "NREL is excited to be working with EPRI and GE to accelerate the development of microgrids that can provide a reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity supply."

In related solar news, GE is to provide finance for a 42 MW solar PV plant in Japan, to be constructed on the site of a former golf course.

The project, which is being built by Toyo Engineering Corp using solar modules from Yingli Green Energy, is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2016. Under a 20-year PPA, utility Chugoku Electric Power Co. will receive the clean energy it produces.

The 42 MW plant – which is owned by Pacifico Energy K.K. – will add to GE Energy Financial Services' 1 GW solar PV portfolio globally. GE's total debt and equity investment in solar power amounts to more than $1.8 billion, with the company planning on investing $1 billion each year in renewable energy.

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