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Electricity Generation and Delivery

University of Minnesota

Enabling the Grid of the Future

The University of Minnesota (UMN) will develop a comprehensive approach that addresses the challenges to system reliability and power quality presented by widespread renewable power generation. By developing techniques for both centralized cloud-based and distributed peer-to-peer networks, the proposed system will enable coordinated response of many local units to adjust consumption and generation of energy, satisfy physical constraints, and provide ancillary services requested by a grid operator. The project will apply concepts from nonlinear and robust control theory to design self-organizing power systems that effectively respond to the grid events and variability. A key feature enabled by the proposed methodology is a flexible plug-and-play architecture wherein devices and small power networks can easily engage or disengage from other power networks or the grid. The project's design approach will be tested across many different scenarios while using more than 100 actual physical devices such as photovoltaics, battery storage inverters, and home appliances.

University of Minnesota

Rapidly Viable Sustained Grid

The University of Minnesota (UMN) will develop a net-load management framework that rapidly identifies neighborhood-units to support grid infrastructure and enable ultrafast coordinated management. UMN's project will rethink power recovery from near blackout conditions with a focus on rapid energization and maximizing power duration. This project's approach could fundamentally change the way large contingencies are managed. It would transition power systems and critical infrastructure from fragile to robust using intelligent, self-organizing control for coordinating resources, enhancing resiliency and increasing the use of renewable energy sources. The communication and control layer coupled with rapid decision-making methods for managing local sources and loads will coordinate power resources and leverage renewable energy. This framework will support the grid in contingencies such as failure of aging infrastructure or catastrophic weather events.

University of Missouri

UHT-CAMANCHE: Ultra-High Temperature Ceramic Additively Manufactured Compact Heat Exchangers

Missouri S&T will combine a novel additive manufacturing technique, called ceramic on-demand extrusion, and ceramic fusion welding techniques to manufacture very high temperature heat exchangers for power cycles with intense heat sources. Enabling turbine operation at significantly higher inlet temperatures substantially increases power generation efficiency and reduces emissions and water consumption. The developed heat exchangers will use ultra-high temperature ceramic materials and state-of-the-art design tools and manufacturing techniques to operate under temperatures of 1100-1500°C (2012-2732°F) and pressures of 80-250 bar (1160-3626 psi). Their high pressure and high temperature characteristics offer great potential for power plant size and cost reduction to enable future high efficiency modular power generation systems.

University of New Mexico

Electrochemical Ammonia Synthesis for Grid Scale Energy Storage

The team led by the University of New Mexico will develop a modular electrochemical process for a power-to-fuel system that can synthesize ammonia directly from nitrogen and water. The proposed synthesis approach will combine chemical and electrochemical steps to facilitate the high-energy step of breaking the nitrogen-nitrogen bond, with projected conversion efficiencies above 70%. By operating at lower temperature and pressure and reducing the air-separation requirement, this technology reduces overall system complexity, thus potentially enabling smaller-scale production at equal or lower costs. Furthermore, the smaller-scale process does not need consistent, baseload power to operate and therefore could be compatible with intermittent renewable energy sources, placing it on a path to be carbon-neutral.

University of Oklahoma


The University of Oklahoma will develop a novel, zero-liquid discharge freeze system to remove dissolved salt from contaminated water, such as is produced by industrial processes like oil and gas extraction. The project will take advantage of the density difference between water and ice to extract pure ice from a salty brine, using a cooling approach that maximizes efficiency and avoids the need for energy-intensive evaporation methods. The system will operate under atmospheric pressure and be capable of treating highly concentrated/contaminated water. If successful, the treated water would be suitable for agricultural use, providing an abundant new water source and easing competition for this vital resource.

University of Rochester

Planar Light Guide Concentrated Photovoltaics

The University of Rochester along with partners Arzon Solar and RPC Photonics will develop a micro-CPV system based on Planar Light Guide (PLG) solar concentrators. The PLG uses a top lenslet layer to focus and concentrate sunlight towards injection facets. These facets guide and redirect light, like a mirror, towards a PV cell at the edge of the device. Combined, these methods lead to higher efficiency over conventional FPV systems. At fewer than 3 mm thick, the system will be thin and flat, similar to traditional FPV panels. The PLG system also reduces complexity and costs by only requiring PV cells at the edge of the device, instead of an array of thousands of micro-PV cells. The team will also develop a scalable fabrication technique that uses grayscale lithography to produce the micro-optics.

University of South Carolina

A Novel Intermediate-Temperature Bi-functional Ceramic Fuel Cell Energy System

The University of South Carolina is developing an intermediate-temperature, ceramic-based fuel cell that will both generate and store electrical power with high efficiencies. Reducing operating temperatures for fuel cells is critical to enabling distributed power generation. The device will incorporate a newly discovered ceramic electrolyte and nanostructured electrodes that enable it to operate at temperatures lower than 500ºC, far below the temperatures associated with fuel cells for grid-scale power generation. The fuel cell's unique design includes an iron-based layer that stores electrical charge like a battery, enabling a faster response to changes in power demand.

University of South Florida

Development of a Low-Cost Thermal Energy Storage System Using Phase-Change Materials with Enhanced Radiation Heat Transfer

The University of South Florida (USF) is developing low-cost, high-temperature phase-change materials (PCMs) for use in thermal energy storage systems. Heat storage materials are critical to the energy storage process. In solar thermal storage systems, heat can be stored in these materials during the day and released at night--when the sun is not out--to drive a turbine and produce electricity. In nuclear storage systems, heat can be stored in these materials at night and released to produce electricity during daytime peak-demand hours. Most PCMs do not conduct heat very well. Using an innovative, electroless encapsulation technique, USF is enhancing the heat transfer capability of its PCMs. The inner walls of the capsules will be lined with a corrosion-resistant, high-infrared emissivity coating, and the absorptivity of the PCM will be controlled with the addition of nano-sized particles. USF's PCMs remain stable at temperatures from 600 to 1,000°C and can be used for solar thermal power storage, nuclear thermal power storage, and other applications.

University of Southern California

An Inexpensive Metal-free Organic Redox Flow Battery for Grid-scale Storage

University of Southern California (USC) is developing a water-based, metal-free, grid-scale flow battery that will be cheaper and more rapidly produced than other batteries. Flow batteries store chemical energy in external tanks instead of within the battery container. This allows for cost-effective scalability because adding storage capacity is as simple as expanding the tank. Batteries for grid-scale energy storage must be inexpensive, robust, and sustainable--many of today's mature battery technologies do not meet all these requirements. Using innovative designs and extremely low-cost organic materials, USC's new flow battery has the potential to reduce cost, increase durability, and store increased amounts of excess energy, thereby promoting greater renewable energy deployment.

University of Southern California

A Robust and Inexpensive Iron-Air Rechargeable Battery for Grid-Scale Energy Storage

University of Southern California (USC) is developing an iron-air rechargeable battery for large-scale energy storage that could help integrate renewable energy sources into the electric grid. Iron-air batteries have the potential to store large amounts of energy at low cost--iron is inexpensive and abundant, while oxygen is freely obtained from the air we breathe. However, current iron-air battery technologies have suffered from low efficiency and short life spans. USC is working to dramatically increase the efficiency of the battery by placing chemical additives on the battery's iron-based electrode and restructuring the catalysts at the molecular level on the battery's air-based electrode. This can help the battery resist degradation and increase life span. The goal of the project is to develop a prototype iron-air battery at significantly cost lower than today's best commercial batteries.

University of Tennessee

Advanced Reversible Aqueous Air Electrode

The University of Tennessee (UT) will develop a reversible Oxygen Reduction Reaction (ORR) catalyst that can be used both as a peroxide-producing electrolyzer and in reversible air batteries. The ORR catalyst development seeks to significantly improve peroxide electrolysis efficiency and achieve high charge and discharge rates in air-breathing batteries. In conjunction with the new catalyst, an anion exchange membrane (AEM) will be used to further increase the electrolyzer efficiency and reduce peroxide production costs. In the reversible air battery, the AEM increases battery power performance. Finally, a two-phase flow field design will increase both the current density and current efficiency for peroxide production and can also be used in the reversible air battery to build up a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide for energy storage. This technology could also enable onsite hydrogen peroxide production at small scale.

University of Tennessee

Reversible Fuel Cells for Long-duration Storage

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville team will develop an energy storage system based on an innovative electrolyzer/fuel cell combination. Typically, fuel cells produce water from hydrogen and oxygen. The Tennessee team will instead use the fuel cell to produce hydrogen peroxide, a liquid that can be stored. When extra power is needed on the grid, the fuel cell will produce peroxide and electricity. Available electricity then can be used to convert the peroxide back to hydrogen and oxygen during the charging cycle, which can be stored for future use. The benefit of using peroxide rather than water is higher efficiency in both charging and discharging the system.

University of Tennessee

A Smart and Flexible Microgrid with a Low-Cost Scalable Open-Source Controller

University of Tennessee (UT), along with their partners, will develop a new type of microgrid design, along with its corresponding controller. Like most other microgrids, it will have solar PV-based distributed generation and be capable of grid-connected or disconnected (islanded) operations. Unlike other microgrids, this design will incorporate smart grid capabilities including intelligent switches and high-speed communication links. The included controller will accommodate and utilize these smart grid features for enhanced performance and reduced costs. The microgrid controller will be open source, offering a flexible and robust development and implementation environment. The microgrid and controller design will also be scalable for different geographic areas, load sizes, distributed generation source number and types, and even multiple microgrids within an area.

University of Texas, Dallas

A Low-Cost Floating Offshore Vertical Axis Wind System

The University of Texas at Dallas (UT-Dallas) team plans to develop a floating turbine design featuring a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT). The design will exploit inherent VAWT characteristics favorable to deep water environments and use a CCD approach to overcome common challenges. VAWTs offer advantages over traditional offshore wind designs because they have a lower vertical center of gravity and center of pressure; require a smaller, less expensive floating platform; do not need yaw control systems; and have the potential to reduce operations and maintenance costs due to platform-level access to the drivetrain. The UT-Dallas team will design a system based on a hierarchical CCD (H-CCD) framework tailored to the floating VAWT system design. Their design framework includes aero-elastic tailoring of the rotor to reduce parked and operating loads, coordination of active plasma on-blade flow control with rotor speed control to reduce torque variability, and a lightweight and stable platform design.

University of Tulsa

Double-Focus Hybrid Solar Energy System with Full Spectrum Utilization

The University of Tulsa is developing a hybrid solar converter with a specialized light-filtering mirror that splits sunlight by wavelength, allowing part of the sunlight spectrum to be converted directly to electricity with photovoltaics (PV), while the rest is captured and stored as heat. By integrating a light-filtering mirror that passes the visible part of the spectrum to a PV cell, the system captures and converts as much as possible of the photons into high-value electricity and concentrates the remaining light onto a thermal fluid, which can be stored and be used as needed. University of Tulsa's hybrid solar energy system also captures waste heat from the solar cells, providing an additional source of low-temperature heat. This hybrid converter could make more efficient use of the full solar spectrum and can provide inexpensive solar power on demand.

University of Tulsa

Plasmonic Nanoparticle Enhanced Liquid Filters for Optimal Solar Conversion

The University of Tulsa is developing a hybrid solar converter that captures ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths of light in a thermal fluid while directing visible wavelengths of light to a photovoltaic (PV) cell to produce electricity. The PV cells can be kept at moderate temperatures while high-quality heat is captured in the thermal fluid for storage and conversion into electricity when needed. The thermal fluid will flow behind the PV cell to capture waste heat and then flow in front of the PV cell, where it heats further and also act as a filter, passing only the portions of sunlight that the PV cell converts most efficiently while absorbing the rest. This light absorption control will be accomplished by including nanoparticles of different materials, shapes, and sizes in the fluid that are tailored to absorb different portions of sunlight. The heat captured in the fluid can be stored to provide dispatchable solar energy during non-daylight hours. Together, the PV cells and thermal energy provide instantaneous as well as storable power for dispatch when most needed.

University of Vermont

Packetized Energy Management: Coordinating Transmission and Distribution

The University of Vermont (UVM) will develop and test a new approach for demand-side management called packetized energy management (PEM) that builds on approaches used to manage data packets in communication networks without centralized control and with a high level of privacy. The PEM system will allow millions of small end-use devices to cooperatively balance energy supply and demand in real time without jeopardizing the reliability of the grid or the quality of service to consumers. The project will develop the PEM method to optimally manage the rapid fluctuations that come with large amounts of renewable power generation, while simultaneously managing reliability constraints in the bulk transmission and local distribution infrastructure. To ensure UVM's PEM methods are effective, the integrated system will undergo extensive simulation testing with large-scale hardware implementation for the bulk power grid and an industry-scale micro-grid environments.

University of Virginia

50 MW Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotors for Wind Energy

The team led by the University of Virginia (UVA) will design the world's largest wind turbine by employing a new downwind turbine concept called Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotor (SUMR). Increasing the size of wind turbine blades will enable a large increase in power from today's largest turbines - from an average of 5-10MW to a proposed 50MW system. The SUMR concept allows blades to deflect in the wind, much like a palm tree, to accommodate a wide range of wind speeds (up to hurricane-wind speeds) with reduced blade load, thus reducing rotor mass and fatigue. The novel blades also use segmentation to reduce production, transportation, and installation costs. This innovative design overcomes key challenges for extreme-scale turbines resulting in a cost-effective approach to advance the domestic wind energy market. The team includes world's experts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Sandia National Labs (SNL) working with world-class faculty and students at the Colorado School of Mines, University of Colorado (Boulder), University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), and UVA.

University of Washington

Development of a Compact Fusion Device Based on the Flow Z-Pinch

The University of Washington (UW), along with its partner Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, will work to mitigate instabilities in the plasma, and thus provide more time to heat and compress it while minimizing energy loss. The team will use the Z-Pinch approach for simultaneously heating, confining, and compressing plasma by applying an intense, pulsed electrical current which generates a magnetic field. While the simplicity of the Z-Pinch is attractive, it has been plagued by plasma instabilities. UW will investigate Z-pinch fusion using sheared-flow stabilized plasmas, meaning that adjacent layers of the plasma move parallel to each other at different speeds. These sheared axial flows have been shown to stabilize Z-pinch instabilities, and the team will investigate whether this will hold true under more extreme conditions using experimental and computational studies. If successful, UW's design would simplify the engineering required for an eventual reactor through its reduced number of components and efficiency. In addition, the design's avoidance of single-use components would enable fusion research to progress faster through more rapid experimentation.

University of Washington

Energy Positioning: Control and Economics

The University of Washington (UW) and the University of Michigan are developing an integrated system to match well-positioned energy storage facilities with precise control technologies so the electric grid can more easily include energy from renewable power sources like wind and solar. Because renewable energy sources provide intermittent power, it is difficult for the grid to efficiently allocate those resources without developing solutions to store their energy for later use. The two universities are working with utilities, regulators, and the private sector to position renewable energy storage facilities in locations that optimize their ability to provide and transmit electricity where and when it is needed most. Expanding the network of transmission lines is prohibitively expensive, so combining well-placed storage facilities with robust control systems to efficiently route their power will save consumers money and enable the widespread use of safe, renewable sources of power.


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