Hybrid power plants and flexibility – the future of the grid

Aerial photos of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Flatirons Campus near Boulder, Colorado. He took a photo of a UAV. (Photo by Joshua Bauer / NREL)

Imagine a grid of clean, renewable energy. Now imagine that this grid provides the comfort and convenience that consumers expect, as well as services such as grid reliability and resilience that are similar to or better than conventional plants. That is the hope of the FlexPower project.

With the support of the United States Energy Grid Modernization Laboratory, FlexPower, along with other emerging laboratories, will bring in researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to build an energy-efficient hybrid power plant on the NREL Flatirons campus. Participants include Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia).

As renewables displace the normal generation, hybrid renewables combined with energy storage can convert volatile resources such as wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) into completely non-transferable and variable energy sources. These hybrid generators can operate during the day and in real-time energy markets and provide the necessary reliability and resilience services to the grid.

Reviewing reforms

“This research will help accelerate the adoption of the wind turbine and the adoption of PV resources,” said Vahan Givorgian, chief engineer of NREL. The power grid needs to reconsider what brings strong energy storage capacity and tariff resources to the grid in order to integrate a large and dynamic renewable energy generation.

To support this change, researchers are experimenting with a variety of energy storage systems: compressed storage hydropower, batteries, hydrogen, flow batteries, kinetic, and ultracapacitor energy storage. The project will also focus on advanced control strategies and asset forecasting techniques. Advanced controllers can improve dynamic distribution and availability by using the nature of wind and PV resources and by adding capacity for renewable projects at low or in some cases no additional transmission. Improved forecasting allows hybrid plants to participate in the energy and auxiliary services markets in the same way as conventional power plants.

By combining generation, storage, advanced controls and improved forecasts in hybrid plants, operators can achieve scalable economies by sharing infrastructure and saving and allowing costs. These plants can provide the full range of existing reliability services as well as new, emerging grid security services. For example, hybrid plants can provide self-starters as well as power system black starters, work in island mode, and participate in power system recovery programs. And hybrid plants are measured from small micrograms to large, interconnected energy systems.

The FlexPower project is of great interest to many stakeholders, including regulators, security companies, system operators, utilities, plant owners and operators, equipment vendors and island power system owners and operators.

“Hybrid renewable energy can introduce national and international energy sectors into new and disruptive energy systems,” he said. “The FlexPower project demonstrates the value of renewable energy resources and suggests strategies to reduce emissions, increase energy production, and make more efficient use of flexible variables. The result could be more expensive grid services and a safer and more robust power supply.

Sharing findings

FlexPower’s research results will be freely available to all stakeholders in the form of public domain information and other assets. Stakeholders in particular have access to FlexPower control architecture. Control codes developed by NREL, INL and Sandia for industrial control forums; Hybrid-potential review maps and databases; Results of regional impact studies; And reports, publications, regional webinars, conference presentations and other communication materials.

The NREL Flatronos Campus Grid Hybrid System provides a test bed for companies and researchers to test and demonstrate their hybrid plant concepts and strategies. The fully-fledged multi-MW hybrid power plant will be able to deliver all kinds of delivery, reliability and resilience services. It also provides a multi-stakeholder test platform for hybrid system displays, new hybrid controllers and hardware for control and equipment suppliers, a place for employee education and the new international collaboration space, and a verification platform for verification forums. Modernization of hybrid technologies.

FlexPower is funded in part by the United States Department of Energy’s Office of Wind Energy Technologies, Office of Hydropower Technologies, Office of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies, and Office of Electricity.

Article courtesy NREL

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