With the advent of supercomputing networks and advances in high-speed data processing, new opportunities to simulate and test the complicated business of integrating renewable energy into the grid will soon enable utilities to accurately model their energy portfolio performance. These capabilities also allow the coupling of geographically disparate infrastructures into one virtual, physically-connected computing system via the Real Time Digital Simulator (RTDS) and high-speed data networks.
To help utilities and the power industry gain a better understanding of how to incorporate larger percentages of renewable energy into their energy portfolios, the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is conducting foundational test-bed and engineering research directed toward integrating and managing generation systems. Today, INL's energy initiatives center on five key areas: power generation; system integration; resource utilization; control, monitoring, and modeling; and critical infrastructure cyber security.
Highlights of INL capabilities include:
- Extensive experience in conducting renewable energy resource assessments, feasibility studies and designs, and performing management and installation roles at military bases
- Geothermal assessment at Hill and Mountain Home Air Force Bases to gauge opportunities for local renewable power generation
- Maintenance of significant testing capabilities with RTDS to emulate the grid and interface with its 61 miles of independent 138-kilovolt transmission loop and 13.8-kilovolt distribution system with seven distribution substations and hundreds of buildings that serve as configurable loads
- Dynamic modeling, simulation, and analysis of electric power generation and transmission systems for researching effective, stable, reliable, and efficient energy delivery focused on variable generation integration, energy storage, base-loading generation and energy delivery through micro-grids, smart-grids, and other advanced technologies
- Maintenance of real-time grid monitoring and control related to transmission and distribution through its centralized supervisory control and data acquisition operations center—advanced "smart" metering, networking, and data fusion functions provide insight into critical operations and maintenance.
INL's RTDS provides high-fidelity power systems simulation technology for fast and accurate studies of dynamic power systems with complex networks. The digital simulator computes electromagnetic transient solutions in real time. The coupling of the simulator with multiple power converters enables researchers to integrate grid hardware (generators and energy storage devices) and loads into the simulation. This system provides researchers with a unique theoretical and computational environment to better understand how disparate energy systems behave in a hybrid environment under various conditions.