The Universal Interoperability for Grid-Forming Inverters (UNIFI) Consortium brings together leading researchers, industry stakeholders, utilities, and system operators to advance grid-forming inverter technologies. Led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Electric Power Research Institute, the UNIFI Consortium focuses on integrating these uniform and standardized grid-forming technologies into electric grids at any scale to accelerate solar and wind deployment. The consortium, with its industry partners, will ultimately develop a universal set of guidelines that enable seamless integration of inverter-based resources.

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This webinar, led by Ben Kroposki, provides an overview of the UNIFI Consortium funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
UNIFI Consortium

The Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) announced $25 million in funding in 2021 for the UNIFI Consortium as part of the SETO Fiscal Year 2021 Systems Integration and Hardware Incubator Funding Program.

What are Grid Forming Inverters?

Grid-forming inverters are capable of providing system support functions on power grids with very large amounts of renewable, inverter-based resources. That means they’re able to maintain stable grid voltages and frequencies that are critical to the reliability and resilience of the grid operation. They’re even capable of using inverter-based resources like solar and wind to restart a downed grid —a process known as black start.

Traditional “grid-following” inverters, on the other hand, require that normal grid voltage and frequency already be established before inverter-based resources inject power into the grid. Grid-forming inverters make it possible for a network of solar systems to designate a subset of its inverters to operate in grid-forming mode while the rest follow their lead, like dance partners, forming a stable grid without any conventional generation. Learn more about systems integration basics.

Objectives

The goal of the UNIFI Consortium is to lead the industry to achieve the full potential of grid-forming technologies and to build a self-sustained collaborative community for long-term engagement and innovation. UNIFI will advance the maturity of grid-forming technologies and promote their uniform adoption by identifying and addressing the issues in inverter devices, system considerations, commercialization, standards, guidelines, education, and training. As inverter-based resources like solar, wind, and battery energy storage become the dominant generators in the energy mix, grid-forming inverter technologies are essential to ensure the grid can function with predictable reliability, security, resilience, and stability.

Approach

The UNIFI Consortium is focused on three main activities to advance grid-forming inverter technologies.

  • Research and Development: Research and development work focuses on interoperability modeling and simulation, controls for primary- and secondary-layer operations, hardware prototyping at lab scales, and integration and validation to translate designs to practice.
  • Demonstration and Commercialization: Findings from research and development will be used to construct a 20-megawatt demonstration, develop new standards for grid-forming technologies, spur domestic product development, and manage intellectual property that drives innovation.
  • Outreach and Training: Training materials are under development for professionals across the energy spectrum, including university students, to broadly share research, development, demonstration, and commercialization findings.

Visit the UNIFI Consortium website managed by the research team to learn more.

Additional Resources


Learn more about systems integration research, other solar energy research in SETO, and current and former funding programs.