US to build clean energy test site

The Energy Department will invest $135m to construct and equip a facility in Colorado to help researchers scale-up promising clean energy technologies, and test how they interact with each other and the grid at utility-scale.

Advanced Energy Industries has signed on as the first private industry partner at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) to be located on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) campus in Golden, Colorado. AEI will develop lower cost, better performing solar power inverters.

In the last four years, US solar generation has more than doubled, while at the same time the costs of photovoltaic systems have dropped 80%. As it contributes more to the US energy mix, lower cost advanced solar inverters will help usher in an increasingly diverse electricity portfolio, while providing American consumers and businesses with reliable and affordable energy options, according to DOE.

ESIF will house more than 15 experimental laboratories and several outdoor test beds, including an interactive hardware-in-the-loop system that lets researchers and manufacturers test their products at full power and real grid load levels. The facility will also feature a petascale supercomputer that can support large-scale modeling and simulation at one quadrillion operations per second.

DOE says that EISF is aimed at overcoming generation, transmission, distribution and end-use challenges to support a cleaner, affordable, and more secure US energy mix. This includes public and private research into next generation building technologies, microgrids, energy storage batteries, and utility-scale renewable energy.

 As the cost of clean energy technologies continues to come down, seamless and efficient grid integration will help make these resources and products even more affordable, while giving Americans more control over how they use energy in their homes and businesses, adds DOE.

"This new facility will allow for an even stronger partnership with manufacturers, utilities, and researchers to help integrate more renewable energy into a smarter, more reliable, and more resilient power grid," says Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.