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Electricity Generation and Delivery

NAVITASMAX

Novel Tuning of Critical Fluctuations for Advanced Thermal Energy Storage

NAVITASMAX, along with their partners at Harvard University, Cornell University, and Barber-Nichols, is developing a novel thermal energy storage solution. This innovative technology is based on tuning the properties of simple and complex fluids to increase their ability to store more heat. In solar thermal storage systems, heat can be stored in NAVITASMAX's system during the day and released at night--when the sun is not shining--to drive a turbine and produce electricity. In nuclear storage systems, heat can be stored in NAVITASMAX's system at night and released to produce electricity during daytime peak-demand hours.

New York University

Grid Dynamics and Energy Consumption Patterns Through Remote Observations of City Light

New York University (NYU) will develop an observational platform to remotely reveal energy usage patterns of New York City using synoptic imaging of the urban skyline. The electrical grid of the future will be a complex collection of traditional centralized power generation, distributed energy resources, and emerging renewable energy technologies. Advanced energy consumption data is required to design and optimize our future grid. At present, the costly and time-consuming installation of smart meters is the only way to obtain this level of building energy information. NYU will harness astronomical lessons from the study of light emitted by stars to propose a method to understand city-level energy consumption using a single platform. This platform will develop proxy measures of energy consumption, monitor the health of the electric grid, and characterize end use. The project will use three different imaging methodologies to measure interior lights at night: persistent broadband visible, hypertemporal, and hyperspectral. Broadband visible imaging of an urban skyline will measure changes in the city lightscape. This variability serves as a proxy for occupancy and behavior patterns that, when combined with "ground truth" meter data, will be used to train models to quantify energy use. Hypertemporal visible imaging can detect and classify tiny changes over time in the oscillations of electrical lights. For urban lightscapes, phase changes in individual units can signal changes in load (e.g. appliances turning on/off), while neighborhood-level changes can indicate the health of distribution transformers. The information from these methods can serve as a low-cost supplement (and potential alternative) to smart meters. Hyperspectral observations, including bands of infrared light not visible by the human eye, allow the team to distinguish lighting technologies at night. By combining this data with their broadband visible observations, the team can uniquely quantify energy use phenomena such as technology penetration and "rebound," where the energy benefits of energy efficient lighting are partially offset by greater use. With these results, utility companies can design targeted outreach efforts to incentivize energy conservation at the consumer level. Utility providers can use these insights to improve grid resilience, preemptively detect outages, and more effectively manage assets in real time. If successful, the system is well suited to deployment in developing countries where the use of modern energy-monitoring technologies is prohibitively expensive.

Newton Energy Group, LLC

Coordinated Operation of Electric And Natural Gas Supply Networks: Optimization Processes And Market Design

The team led by Newton Energy Group will lead the Gas-Electric Co-Optimization (GECO) project to improve coordination of wholesale natural gas and power operators both at the physical and market levels. The team's approach uses mathematical methods and computational techniques that have revolutionized the field of optimal control. These methods will be applied to natural gas pipeline networks, and the final deliverable will consist of three major components. First, they will model and optimize intra-day pipeline operations represented by realistic models of gas network flow. Next, the team will develop economic theory and computation algorithms for the pricing of natural gas delivered to end users, in particular to gas-fired power plants. Finally, they will combine these two analytical components to design practical market mechanisms for efficient coordination of gas and electric systems. The goal of efficient market design is to develop a mechanism under which access to pipeline capacity will be provided on the basis of its economic value as determined by gas buyers and sellers, and not on the current allocation of physical capacity rights. The tool guarantees natural gas will be available when power plants need it, and that the power produced can be sold to consumers at a price sufficient to cover the cost of the natural gas.

NexTech Materials, Ltd. dba Nexceris, LLC

Advanced Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Stack for Hybrid Power Systems

Nexceris, LLC will develop a compact, ultra-high efficiency solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) stack tailored for hybrid power systems. Hybridized power generation systems, combining energy efficient SOFCs with a microturbine or internal combustion (IC) engine, offer a path to high efficiency distributed generation from abundant natural gas. Proof-of-concept systems have shown the potential of this hybrid approach, but component optimization is necessary to increase system efficiencies and reduce costs. Existing SOFC stacks are relatively expensive and improving their efficiency and robustness would enhance the overall commercial viability of these systems. Nexceris' SOFC stack design includes a patented high performance planar cell design and a novel anode current collector that that provides structural support to each cell during pressurized operation, helps define the flow of fuel gas through the stack, and improves control over the reaction of natural gas in the cell, and a sealing approach that facilitates pressurized stack operation. If successful, this stack design will result in increased performance and durability at reduced cost. The 10-kW-scale cell stack building blocks will be housed within a hermetically sealed "hotbox" to reduce drastic changes in temperature and pressure during operation. These design features would allow for seamless integration with a turbine or combustion engine to maximize the overall efficiency of a hybrid system.

North Carolina State University

Development of a Nearly Autonomous Management and Control System for Advanced Reactors

North Carolina State University (NC State) will develop a highly automated management and control system for advanced nuclear reactors. The system will provide operations recommendations to staff during all modes of plant operation except shutdown operations. Using an artificial-intelligence (AI) guided system enabling continuous extensive monitoring of plant status, knowledge of current component status, and plant parameter trends, the system will continuously predict near-term behavior within the plant and recommend a course of action to plant personnel. If successful, this comprehensive, knowledge-based control system for credible, consistent management of plant operations will improve safety and optimize emergency management in advanced reactors. AI-guided models trained on data from plant monitoring instruments combined with expectations generated by advanced modeling and simulation can vastly improve the effectiveness of plant diagnosis and prognosis in plant management, as well as enable vulnerability search in safety analysis. In particular, the system will greatly increase the time available before operator action is required. This means that a significantly smaller operational staff--assisted by instrumentation, operator training, and smart procedures--is needed to manage the plant, reducing overall operational cost.

Northeastern University

A New Class of Soft-Switching Capacitive-Link Universal Converters for Photovoltaic Application

Northeastern University will develop a new class of universal power converters that can be used in a wide range of applications including renewable energy systems, automotive, and manufacturing technologies. Northeastern will focus the project on the design, simulation, prototyping, and experimental evaluation for PV systems. This project proposes a new class of converters that can both step up and step down the voltage. This converter uses a very small film capacitor for transferring the power from the input to the output. The proposed technology eliminates the need for electrolytic capacitors, and can double the lifetime and reliability of power converters. The power density of this class of power converters is also high since it can use an integrated, single-phase, high-frequency transformer instead of heavy and bulky low-frequency transformers. In this project, two 3kW prototypes will be fabricated and tested. The first will use silicon insulated-gate bipolar transistors and its switching frequency will be below 10kHz. The second prototype will employ silicon carbide (SiC) metal oxide semiconductor Field-Effect Transistors (MOSFETs) with the target switching frequency at 50kHz. Significant reduction (6X) in inverter weight and improvement in inverter efficiency (> 1.5%) is expected in the proposed solution that combines the novel circuit topology and the SiC transistors over traditional PV inverters.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems

FSPOT-X: Full Spectrum Power for Optical/Thermal Exergy

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems is developing a dish-shaped sunlight-concentrating hybrid solar converter that integrates high-efficiency solar cells and a thermo-acoustic engine that generates electricity directly from heat. Current solar cells lose significant amounts of energy as heat, because they do not have heat storage capability. By integrating a high-temperature solar cell and thermo-acoustic engine into a single system, thermal energy losses are minimized. The thermo-acoustic unit, which was originally designed for space missions, converts waste heat from the solar cell into sound waves to generate electricity using as few moving parts as possible. The engine and solar cell are connected to a molten salt thermal storage unit to store heat when the sun shines and to release the heat and make electricity when the sun is not shining. Northrop Grumman's system could efficiently generate electricity more cheaply than existing solar power plants and lead to inexpensive, on-demand electricity from solar energy.

Northwestern University

A Novel Hierarchical Frequency-Based Load Control Architecture 

Northwestern University and its partners will develop a frequency-based load control architecture to provide additional frequency response capability and allow increased renewable generation on the grid. The work will focus on developing and demonstrating algorithms that adapt to rapid changes of loads, generation, and system configuration while taking into account various constraints arising from the transmission and distribution networks. The multi-layer control architecture makes it possible to simultaneously ensure system stability at the transmission network level, control frequency at the local distribution network level, and maintain the quality-of-service for individual customers at the building level, all under a single framework. At the transmission level, coordination among different areas will be achieved through a centralized scheme to ensure stable frequency synchronization, while the control decisions within a single area will be made based on local information. The efficiency of the centralized scheme will be ensured by decomposing the network into smaller components on which the control problem is solved individually. At the local distribution network level, the control scheme will be decentralized, in which control decisions are made based on the state of the neighboring nodes. At the building level, dynamic models for flexible appliances and DERs will be developed and used to design algorithms to optimally follow a given aggregated load profile.

NumerEx, LLC

Stabilized Liner Compressor (SLC) For Low-Cost Fusion

NumerEx will develop a Stabilized Liner Compressor (SLC) which uses a liquid metal liner for non-destructive experimentation and operation, meaning the liner implosion is quickly repeatable. The SLC uses a rotating chamber, in which liquid metal is formed into a hollow cylinder. The liquid is pushed by pistons driven by high-pressure gas, collapsing the inner surface around a target on the axis. The rotation of the liquid liner avoids instabilities that would otherwise occur during compression of the plasma. After each experiment, the liquid liner can flow back to its original position for subsequent implosion. In the NumerEx team's conceptual design for a power plant, the liquid liner acts as a blanket absorbing radiation from fusion reactions, reducing damage to the reactor hardware and creating fusion fuel for future reactor operation. Additionally, energy from the recoil of the liner and piston can be captured and reused, making the power plant design more efficient.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Hydration-Free Proton Conductive Membranes Based on Two Dimensional Materials

The team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will design proton-selective membranes for use in storage technologies, such as flow batteries, fuel cells, or electrolyzers for liquid-fuel storage. Current proton-selective membranes (e.g. Nafion) require hydration, but the proposed materials would be the first low-temperature membranes that conduct protons without the need for hydration. The enabling technology relies on making single-layer membranes from graphene or similar materials and supporting them for mechanical stability. The team estimates that these membranes can be manufactured at costs around one order of magnitude lower than Nafion membranes. Due to the lower system complexity, the team's innovations would enable fuel cell production at lower system-level costs.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Magnetic Amplifier for Power Flow Control

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is developing an electromagnet-based, amplifier-like device that will allow for complete control over the flow of power within the electric grid. To date, complete control of power flow within the grid has been prohibitively expensive. ORNL's controller could provide a reliable, cost-effective solution to this problem. The team is combining two types of pre-existing technologies to assist in flow control, culminating in a prototype iron-based magnetic amplifier. Ordinarily, such a device would require expensive superconductive wire, but the magnetic iron core of ORNL's device could serve as a low-cost alternative that is equally adept at regulating power flow.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Metastable And Glassy Ionic Conductors (MAGIC)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will develop glassy Li-ion conductors that are electrochemically and mechanically stable against lithium metal and can be integrated into full battery cells. Metallic lithium anodes could significantly improve the energy density of batteries versus today's state-of-the-art lithium ion cells. ORNL has chosen glass as a solid barrier because the lack of grain boundaries in glass mitigates the growth of branchlike metal fibers called dendrites, which short-circuit battery cells. The team aims to identify a glassy electrolyte with high conductivity, explore novel and cost-effective ways to fabricate this thin glass electrolyte, and design electrolyte membranes that are sufficiently robust to prevent cracking and degradation during battery fabrication and cycling. Advanced glass processing using rapid quench methods will enable a range of compositions and microstructures as well as their cost-effective fabrication as thin, dense membranes. In addition to glass composition, a range of membrane designs will be investigated by modeling and experiment. For efficient battery fabrication, the glassy membrane will likely require mechanical support and protection, which could be achieved by employing polymers or ceramic layers as a support.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

A Natural-gas based High Efficiency Combined Thermo-chemical Affordable Reactor (NECTAR)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Nanocomposite Electrodes for a Solid Acid Fuel Cell Stack Operating on Reformate

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is redesigning a fuel cell electrode that operates at 250ºC. Today's solid acid fuel cells (SAFCs) contain relatively inefficient cathodes, which require expensive platinum catalysts for the chemical reactions to take place. ORNL's fuel cell will contain highly porous carbon nanostructures that increase the amount of surface area of the cell's electrolyte, and substantially reduce the amount of catalyst required by the cell. By using nanostructured electrodes, ORNL can increase the performance of SAFC cathodes at a fraction of the cost of existing technologies. The ORNL team will also modify existing fuel processors to operate efficiently at reduced temperatures; those processors will work in conjunction with the fuel cell to lower costs at the system level. ORNL's innovations will enable efficient distributed electricity generation from domestic fuel sources using less expensive catalysts.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Temperature Self-Regulation for Large-Format Li-Ion cells

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is developing an innovative battery design to more effectively regulate destructive isolated hot-spots that develop within a battery during use and eventually lead to degradation of the cells. Today's batteries are not fully equipped to monitor and regulate internal temperatures, which can negatively impact battery performance, life-time, and safety. ORNL's design would integrate efficient temperature control at each layer inside lithium ion (Li-Ion) battery cells. In addition to monitoring temperatures, the design would provide active cooling and temperature control deep within the cell, which would represent a dramatic improvement over today's systems, which tend to cool only the surface of the cells. The elimination of cell surface cooling and achievement of internal temperature regulation would have significant impact on battery performance, life-time, and safety.

Ocean Renewable Power Company

Innovative Deployment and Retrieval Scheme for Cross-flow Hydrokinetic Turbines

The Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) will develop an innovative, self-deploying MHK power system, which will reduce the operating costs and improve the efficiency of MHK systems by up to 50%. ORPC's system is based on pitch control of the blades of a cross-flow turbine, in which the tidal flow passes across the turbine blades rather than in a radial fashion. This system will allow the turbine to self-propel itself to the deployment location, and lower itself to the sea floor remotely. This innovative approach will allow for lower costs of deployment and retrieval, reduced requirements for sea-bed foundation construction, as well as increased turbine efficiency. The ORPC team will design, build, and test a model scale of the MHK system to demonstrate the benefits of using a self-deploying turbine, before completing the design and cost analysis of the full-scale commercial system. Successful deployment of this system would significantly reduce the LCOE associated with MHK systems, making the technology a viable renewable resource to generate electrical power.

Oregon State University

Home Generator Benchmarking Program

Oregon State University (OSU) will precisely measure the performance of three commercially-available home generators. The team will collect data on engine efficiency, endurance, emissions, and calculate a levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for each generator. Published data on the performance of small generators is scarce, which has hampered efforts to identify where new technologies can be applied to improve the efficiency of small generators. The rigorous and repeatable measurements collected through this project will be an important step forward in developing future high-performance distributed power generation systems.

Otherlab, Inc.

Adaptive Fluidic Solar Collectors

Otherlab is developing an inexpensive small mirror system with an innovative drive system to reflect sunlight onto concentrating solar power towers at greatly reduced cost. This system is an alternative to expensive and bulky 20-30 foot tall mirrors and expensive sun-tracking drives used in today's concentrating solar power plants. In order for solar power tower plants to compete with conventional electricity generation, these plants need dramatic component cost reductions and lower maintenance and operational expenses. Otherlab's approach uses a smaller modular mirror design that reduces handling difficulty, suffers less from high winds, and allows the use of mass manufacturing processes for low-cost component production. These mirrors can be driven by mechanisms that utilize simpler, more readily serviceable parts which decreases system downtime and efficiency. The incorporation of low-cost and highly-scalable manufacturing approaches could significantly reduce the cost of solar electricity generation below conventional solar tower plant technologies.

Otherlab, Inc.

An Open-Source Tool for Visualizing Energy Flow Data to Identify Opportunities, Inform Decisions, and Increase Energy Literacy

Otherlab will develop an open-source tool to enable higher resolution investigation and visualization of energy flows throughout the country. The core visual component is an interactive Sankey diagram with an intuitive interface that will allow users to examine the flows of energy and materials by industry, region, and economic sector. Behind the visualizations, sophisticated algorithms will aggregate and reconcile data from a wide variety of publically available sources in various formats to present an integrated view of energy and material imports, exports, and flows in the U.S. economy. The project's aim is to characterize these flows to an unprecedented resolution of 0.1% of the U.S. energy economy. The tool will incorporate both the specificity and comprehensiveness necessary to aid decision makers across the energy industry in identifying opportunities and planning energy research and technology development. By maintaining the tool in an open-source format, developers from across the country can assist in providing additional input on data sources, processing algorithms, and visualizations to improve accuracy and usability. Producing the open-source visualization tool will require three interdependent tasks. First, energy data will be collected, verified, and prepared for use. Next, the team will conduct user interface work and usability studies to ensure that the output reaches the broadest audience in the most useful manner. Finally, the team will pursue its final implementation as a web-based tool.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Data Repository for Power system Open models With Evolving Resources (DR POWER)

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has partnered with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) to build a power system model repository, which will maintain and develop open-access power grid models and data sets. The DR POWER approach will review, annotate, and verify submitted datasets while establishing a repository and a web portal to distribute open-access models and scenarios. Through the portal, users can explore the curated data, create suitable datasets (which may include time variation), review and critique models, and download datasets in a specified format. Key features include the ability to collaboratively build, refine, and review a range of large-scale realistic power system models. For researchers, this represents a significant improvement over the current open availability of only small-scale, static models that do not properly represent the challenging environments encountered by present and future power grids. The repository and the web portal will be hosted in PNNL's Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center with access to petabytes of computing storage and load-balancing across multiple computing resources.

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