NREL to help California tackle solar grid integration
The California Public Utilities Commission has tapped experts at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to help the state stimulate solar energy research and build a sustainable solar industry.
The commission awarded NREL $2,785,000 in California Solar Initiative (CSI) Research, Development, Deployment and Demonstration program grants.
The CSI program will invest $50 million to fund research and demonstration projects that will measurably reduce the cost and accelerate the installation of solar and other distributed energy technologies for power generation or storage, or that could reduce the use of natural gas.
"NREL is a leader in researching and developing methods and standards for integration of distributed resources into the nation’s power grid," said Bob Hawsey, associate laboratory director for Renewable Electricity and End Use Systems. "With utilities in California and other states limiting the penetration of renewable resources on certain distribution systems to less than 15 percent, NREL has an opportunity to help the commission and its partners break through the barriers to enable dramatic increases in solar electricity deployment."
The grants to NREL are part of the commission’s first solicitation for projects that focus on integrating photovoltaics into the utility grid. NREL researchers will work on three distinct projects, leading two and participating in another.
The Laboratory will direct development of a software tool that will optimize energy investments in the residential retrofit market and lead a project to analyze high penetration levels of photovoltaics into California’s electricity distribution grid.
The residential software modeling tool, called Building Energy Optimizer for California Existing Homes, will facilitate balanced integration of energy efficiency, demand response and energy storage with photovoltaics on residences. Partners include Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Davis Energy Group, Energy and Environmental Economics and SunPower Corp. The project, valued at $1.3 million, will receive up to $985,000 in grant funding. Pacific Gas & Electric will contribute $329,000 in matching funds.
NREL will work with Southern California Edison and other project partners to model, simulate and test advanced hardware and software that can be installed in the distribution grid to accelerate integration of large photovoltaic systems into the grid. The project, which will receive up to $1.6 million in grant funding over two years, involves installing these hardware and software systems in the Southern California Edison territory and testing performance. The U.S. Department of Energy will provide an additional $1.4 million in matching funds for the project.
The Laboratory will participate in a project led by Clean Power Research (CPR) to develop a free solar resource model that builds on an existing photovoltaic model platform to enhance resolution of satellite-based resource data. The purpose is to create a free tool that can be used by California solar system installers, manufacturers, agencies, utilities and others who provide clean energy power systems. NREL will receive $200,000 over two years. Total project funding is $2,293,000.