Small Colorado Utility Sets National Renewable Electricity Example Using NREL Algorithms

Mount Sopris rises in the background of the Sunnyside Ranch Community Solar Array, a 1.8-megawatt project adjacent to the former Carbondale, Colorado, landfill. The 6,107-panel 11-acre array is leased long-term to Clean Energy Collective with shares owned by community residents. Holy Cross Energy buys electricity produced by the array, and the array is an important part of the 43,000-member energy cooperative’s distributed grid. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

Residential Start to Ratcheting-Up Grid Control

In the basement of a home in the Basalt Vista Affordable Housing Community, a group of next-generation power devices is steadily sharing electricity between solar panels, batteries, heaters, and vehicles connected throughout the neighborhood. The homeowner has no need to interpret the devices’ blinking LED cues or Ethernet connections, because the system is autonomous. Its self-driving settings continually find the optimal allocation of power.

Isaac Ellis is an architect who has retrofitted his home to be energy efficient and net-zero, something he said was only possible with the consumer credits from Holy Cross Energy. Photos by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
NREL researchers Jing Wang, Harsha Vardhana Padullaparti, Ismael Mendoza, and Soumya Tiwari work on NREL’s advanced distribution management system (ADMS) test bed. NREL is using its ADMS test bed for case evaluations by Holy Cross Energy. Photos by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

A Perfect Partnership at the Right Time

The CEO of Holy Cross Energy, Bryan Hannegan, refers to NREL’s ESIF as a “distribution grid in a box” — a risk-free laboratory to run real power tests. Basalt Vista, meanwhile, takes the NODES algorithms “out of the box” and deploys them in real homes, albeit carefully. From one home, to four homes, and ultimately to 27 homes, Basalt Vista is safely scaling a grid architecture that could one day be the key for cities chasing higher renewable shares.

Within the Basalt Vista neighborhood in Basalt’s rugged foothills, NREL is testing one of its most novel grid operation solutions with the customers of local electric cooperative Holy Cross Energy. The affordable housing development features some of the most energy efficient residential homes ever built, all controlled by computers as part of an autonomous grid. Some of the development team, from left to right, Ismael Mendoza Carrillo, NREL; Chris Bilby, Holy Cross Energy; Shibani Ghosh, NREL; Murali Baggu, NREL; Soumya Tiwari, NREL; David Shih, NREL; Jing Wang, NREL; and Fei Ding, NREL. Photos by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

Algorithms for Grid Transformation — Dynamic, Efficient, and Scalable

The NODES algorithms enter Basalt Vista via distributed controllers from partner company Heila Technologies. Controllers located both inside the homes and outdoors in weather-proof casing are running NODES algorithms that direct the controllers on how to manage the residential distributed energy resources (DERs).

Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

A Nation Taking Note — A Path from Lab to Large-Scale

The test bed use case developed by NREL was intentionally selected to ease adoption for rural utilities and cooperatives nationally. Such smaller utilities are natural incubators of innovation and have a long tradition of collaboration with the DOE and its national laboratories like NREL. They’re also notably nimble, able to move fast on new technologies. By working closely with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the partnership will broadcast its results to electric cooperatives, which cover more than half of America’s land and service more than 40 million people. For the other half of America’s land, the results are just as useful.

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National Renewable Energy Laboratory - NREL

National Renewable Energy Laboratory - NREL

From breakthroughs in fundamental science to new clean technologies to integrated energy systems that power our lives, NREL researchers are #TransformingEnergy