US’ NREL launches ‘industry-shifting’ DER management software


A new product developed at the US’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), called OptGrid “has industry-shifting potential to help manage today’s increasingly distributed energy infrastructure” according to the agency, for real-time coordination of distributed renewable energy resources (DERs).

Analogous to a software that operates a household’s smart devices, NREL says OptGrid is the operating system for the new grid, which is being defined by distributed energy technologies in large numbers and great variety, facilitating efficient energy exchange and flexible power systems.

Under the “hood,” OptGrid utilises a novel method for real-time optimisation of power flow that is scalable to coordinate large numbers of distributed energy resources.

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The software has been demonstrated on a California micro-grid-vineyard, in a rural Colorado neighbourhood, and in NREL’s advanced research laboratories where it controlled more than 100 physical power devices. Out of those early experiments, OptGrid has shown that its approach to real-time power flow is ready to make an impact on other systems across the world.

Since its commercial release, OptGrid has been licensed by grid analytics group Utilidata, which will embed OptGrid into smart meters to control DERs at homes and businesses. Utilidata states that OptGrid will make DERs including solar panels, batteries, and electric vehicle chargers more cost-effective for customers and make their homes more resilience during outages.

At NREL, OptGrid is the engine behind autonomous energy systems – a power system design that applies distributed controls and optimisation across energy domains.

Principal Investigator Andrey Bernstein characterises the OptGrid technology as “a cornerstone of a future vision of energy systems, where you can add different devices into the system in a way that is plug and play and that can support the growth of smart cities.”

“This technology can be part of a cleaner-energy world, where customers can use their own energy sources on the [grid] edge and orchestrate them so that the grid is stable and customers are satisfied,” Bernstein said.