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National Lab, Software Company Partner on Net-Zero Microgrid

Solar farm

(Jaidee, Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/solar-solar-panels-solar-farm-2796471/)

13 Jan. 2021. Idaho National Laboratory chose an energy software company to design a technology platform for local distribution of non-carbon electrical power. Xendee Corp. in San Diego says Idaho National Lab in Idaho Falls asked the company to adapt its software to design a net-zero carbon microgrid for distributing power generated by sustainable sources, and supporting green energy users.

A microgrid is a local energy distribution network connected to conventional power grids, but can operate autonomously if necessary. In times of widespread outages or other crises, a microgrid can generate, store, and distribute its own power for periods of time.

Xendee develops software for microgrid design and management that the company says optimizes microgrid performance for local communities or self-contained operations, such as military bases. Xendee first conducts an initial feasibility study to verify a microgrid could meet the client’s objectives for emission reductions or cost savings, using algorithms to find the optimal microgrid design. The company says its analytics also estimate financial and environmental costs and returns, year over year in the future.

Xendee says it then conducts a system engineering analysis to simulate the microgrid’s operation under peak usage, at every node in the network. That analysis also generates a bill of materials for building the microgrid, down to fine levels of detail including power lines, cables, and transformers. This detailed stress-test, says the company, aims to build in resilience to accommodate surges, outages, and power restoration. Another part of the company’s package is cloud-based software for managing construction of the microgrid.

Solar, hydro, and nuclear sources

The project with Idaho National Lab calls for Xendee to build a design platform for a net-zero carbon microgrid. In this case, the microgrid is powered by non-greenhouse gas emission sources such as solar panels, hydroelectric, and small nuclear reactors, and support features encouraging sustainable energy use, such as battery storage and charging stations for electric cars. However, the microgrid also supports conventional heat and power systems.

“Net-zero carbon microgrids,” says Xendee’s chief technology officer Michael Stadler in a company statement, “offer an exceptional solution to large public and private energy consumers, lifting the burden of centralized distribution, ensuring long-term energy security, and specifically addressing greenhouse gases as a priority parameter for technical design.”

Tim McJunkin, a researcher in power and energy systems at Idaho National Lab adds, “with modeling considerations for greenhouse gas emissions and a variety of energy generation technologies, we can harness a variety of solutions to offer sustainability without sacrificing resiliency and energy security.”

Idaho National Lab’s primary mission is research on nuclear energy, but recently expanded work on electrical power grid management. Yesterday, the lab, a part of U.S. Department of Energy, announced opening of what it says is the most comprehensive electric power grid test bed in the country. The $40 million project took 10 years to complete and is expected to allow experts from government and industry to demonstrate technologies for improving grid security and resilience.

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