DOE, NREL, EPRI Announce Program to Support Grid Integration of DERs

DOE, NREL, EPRI Announce Program to Support Grid Integration of DERs

The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) has announced a new competition designed to support the integration of distributed energy resources (DERs) into the nation’s power grid.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm unveiled the program Feb. 7 during a presentation to attendees of the DISTRIBUTECH 2023 event at the San Diego Convention Center in California. The program will be administered by the Golden, Colorado-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in collaboration with EPRI, the independent non-profit energy research and development group based in Palo Alto, California.

Officials involved with the program said more DERs, including renewable energy resources such as solar and wind, along with energy storage, are needed to help decarbonize U.S. power systems. They noted, though, that questions about reliability and resilience around renewables persist, particularly as more baseload sources of power generation are retired.

Forecasting Net Loads

The competition—dubbed the American-Made Net Load Forecasting Prize—is accepting applications from groups that can offer solutions to make forecasting of net power loads more accurate, and more adaptable as new energy systems based around DERs come online. Officials on Tuesday said visibility into the output of DERs available for the power grid is a challenge that must be solved to assist with electricity reliability. The net-load forecast refers to the difference between the amount of demand predicted and the amount of renewable energy forecast that will be available, which can be difficult to figure due to the intermittent nature of renewable energy production.

“Grid security and reliability are critical pieces to solving our nation’s challenges around moving to clean energy,” said Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office. “Increasing the accuracy of net-load predictions will not only enable that reliability, but also allow for cost-efficient planning and the dispatch of energy generation and storage.”

The program is funded by the DOE. It incentivizes innovation, in part by connecting groups working on grid forecasting solutions to U.S. national labs. Officials on Tuesday said participants in the competition will use EPRI’s Solar Forecast Arbiter tool, which is designed to help users more consistently and accurately evaluate solar and net-load forecasts.

Integrating DERs

“Efficiently and rapidly integrating and operating so many DERs presents many challenges and opportunities,” said Daniel Brooks, EPRI’s vice president of Integrated Grid and Energy Systems. “From flexible and integrated control schemes that allow DERs to support grid reliability to providing needed cyber and physical security, the industry has much to tackle to fully leverage the decarbonization and resilience benefits of grid-edge resources. We’re pleased to work with DOE and NREL on such an important component to a successful clean energy transition.”

“EPRI’s Solar Forecast Arbiter will allow competitors to use historical load data as they develop and evaluate forecasting models of their own,” said Emily Evans, lead prize administrator for the Net Load Forecasting Prize at NREL. “It’s a key part of the Net Load Forecasting Prize, and without EPRI, this program wouldn’t have the same impact for innovators.”

The competition is open to U.S.-based institutions, companies, and non-profit organizations, according to the organizers. DOE officials said they expect to announce three winners, and three runners-up, with organizations receiving a total of $600,000 in prizes. NREL will host an informational webinar about the program on Feb. 20.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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