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Electricity Generation and Delivery

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

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

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Magnetically Suspended Canned Rotor Pumps for the Integral Molten Salt Reactor

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.

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.

Opcondys, Inc.

A Bidirectional, Transformerless Converter Topology for Grid-Tied Energy Storage Systems 

Opcondys will develop a high-voltage power converter design for energy storage systems connected directly to the power grid. Opcondys' converter design will use a modified switched multiplier topology that will allow connection to utility transmission lines without intervening step-up transformers. It uses a photonic, wide bandgap power switching device called the Optical Transconductance Varistor. This is a fast, high-voltage, bidirectional device which reduces the number of circuit elements required for charging and discharging the storage element. By operating at 100 kHz it is possible to increase efficiency to 99% compared to 95-98% efficiency of traditional converters. The system also reduces the size of the passive elements by 50% and, because of the optical control, mitigates electromagnetic interference issues. The elimination of step-up transformers further reduces system size, and can enable a lower cost than existing systems. If successful, project developments could open the door to increased integration of grid-level energy storage.

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.

AIKIDO - Advanced Inertial and Kinetic energy recovery through Intelligent (co)-Design Optimization

Traditional wind turbines have grown larger to reach the higher wind speeds found at greater heights and enable the blades to intercept a larger area of wind. The stiffness required to hold up the blades and nacelle has caused turbines to become extremely heavy and consequently expensive. Applying novel CCD paradigms, Otherlab will develop a new architecture for wind systems based on compliant materials, energy-generating structural surfaces, and advanced control systems that overcome the need for stiff, expensive materials by actively controlling how the system interacts with the environment.

Otherlab, Inc.

Hydraulically Actuated Near-Isothermal Compressor

Otherlab is developing a near-isothermal gas compressor that has the potential to use 40% less energy than state-of-the-art near-adiabatic devices. Their compressor will employ a high-surface-area heat exchanger to achieve a near-isothermal compression process. During this effort, Otherlab seeks to demonstrate the thermodynamic performance of its concept in a subscale prototype device. If successful, Otherlab's concept has the potential to offer compelling energy efficiency benefits in many major industrial sectors.

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.

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.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

High-Performance Adaptive Deep-Reinforcement-Learning-Based Real-Time Emergency Control (HADREC) To Enhance Power Grid Resilience In Stochastic Environments

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will construct an intelligent, real-time emergency control system to help safeguard the U.S. electric grid by providing effective and fast control actions to system operators in response to large contingencies or extreme events. PNNL's scalable platform will utilize advanced machine learning techniques (deep-meta-reinforcement learning) as well as high-performance computing to automatically provide effective emergency control strategies seconds after disturbances or attacks. Platform development will focus on the determination, timing, coordination, and automation of control actions, including adaptation under uncertainty. The technology will diminish the need for costly preventive security measures as well as reduce action time sixtyfold and system recovery time by at least 10%, enabling more efficient and resilient grid operation.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Multi-scale Incentive-Based Control of Distributed Assets

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will develop and test a hierarchical control framework for coordinating the flexibility of a full range of DERs, including flexible building loads, to supply reserves to the electric power grid. The hierarchical control framework consists of incentive-based control strategies across multiple time-scales. The system will use a slower incentive-based approach to acquire flexible assets that provide services, combined with faster device-level controls that use minimal communication to provide desired responses to the grid. Each DER that chooses to participate will communicate its ability to provide flexibility and the time scale over which it can provide the service. A distribution reliability coordinator will act as an interface between the DERs and the bulk system, coordinating the resources in an economic and reliable manner. The team will characterize various DER types to quantify the maximum flexibility that can be extracted from a collection of DERs in aggregate in order to provide service-level guarantees to the bulk energy market operator. The performance of the resulting hierarchical control system will be tested at scale in a co-simulation environment spanning transmission, distribution, ancillary markets, and communication systems.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Reversible Metal Hydride Thermal Storage for High-Temperature Power Generation Systems

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is developing a thermal energy storage system based on a Reversible Metal Hydride Thermochemical (RMHT) system, which uses metal hydride as a heat storage material. 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. PNNL's metal hydride material can reversibly store heat as hydrogen cycles in and out of the material. In a RHMT system, metal hydrides remain stable in high temperatures (600- 800°C). A high-temperature tank in PNNL's storage system releases heat as hydrogen is absorbed, and a low-temperature tank stores the heat until it is needed. The low-cost material and simplicity of PNNL's thermal energy storage system is expected to keep costs down. The system has the potential to significantly increase energy density.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

High Performance Power-Grid Optimization 

The team led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will develop a High-Performance Power-Grid Optimization (HIPPO) technology to reduce grid resource scheduling times to within a fraction of current speeds, which can lead to more flexible and reliable real-time operation. The team will leverage advances in optimization algorithms and deploy high-performance computing technologies to significantly improve the performance of grid scheduling. HIPPO will provide inter-algorithm parallelization and allow algorithms to share information during their solution process, with the objective of reducing computing time by efficiently using computational power. New algorithms will leverage knowledge of the underlying system, operational experience, and past solutions to improve performance and avoid previously encountered mistakes.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Non-Wire Methods for Transmission Congestion Management through Predictive Simulation and Optimization

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is developing innovative high-performance-computing techniques that can assess unused power transmission capacity in real-time in order to better manage congestion in the power grid. This type of assessment is traditionally performed off-line every season or every year using only conservative, worst-case scenarios. Finding computing techniques that rate transmission capacity in real-time could improve the utilization of the existing transmission infrastructure by up to 30% and facilitate increased integration of renewable generation into the grid--all without having to build costly new transmission lines.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Sustainable Data Evolution Technology for Power Grid Optimization 

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), along with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, PJM, Avista, and CAISO, will develop a sustainable data evolution technology (SDET) to create open-access transmission and distribution power grid datasets as well as data creation tools that the grid community can use to create new datasets based on user requirements and changing grid complexity. The SDET approach will derive features and metrics from many private datasets provided by PNNL's industry partners. For transmission systems, PNNL will develop advanced, graph-theory based techniques and statistical approaches to reproduce the derived features and metrics in synthetic power systems models. For distribution systems, the team will use anonymization and obfuscation techniques and apply them to datasets from utility partners.

Palo Alto Research Center

Micro-Chiplet Printer for MOSAIC

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), along with Sandia National Laboratory (SNL) will develop a prototype printer with the potential to enable economical, high-volume manufacturing of micro-PV cell arrays. This project will focus on creating a printing technology that can affordably manufacture micro-CPV system components. The envisioned printer would drastically lower assembly costs and increase manufacturing efficiency of micro-CPV systems. Leveraging their expertise in digital copier assembly, PARC intends to create a printer demonstration that uses micro-CPV cells or "chiplets" as the "ink" and arranges the chiplets in a precise, predefined location and orientation, similar to how a document printer places ink on a page. SNL will provide micro-scaled photovoltaic components to be used as the "ink," and the PARC system will "print" panel-sized micro-CPV substrates with digitally placed and interconnected PV cells. This micro-chiplet printer technology may reduce the assembly cost of micro-CPV systems by orders of magnitude, making them cost competitive with conventional FPV. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the printer, the project team will investigate two types of backplanes (electronically connected PV arrays arranged on a surface): one with a single type of micro-PV cell, and one with at least two types of micro-PV cells.

Palo Alto Research Center

Reformer-less Oxygen Conducting Natural Gas Intermediate-Temperature Fuel Cell (RONIN)

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is developing an intermediate-temperature fuel cell that is capable of utilizing a wide variety of carbon-based input fuels such as methane, butane, propane, or coal without reformation. Current fuel cell technologies require the use of a reformer - which turns hydrocarbon fuels into hydrogen and can generate heat and produce gases. PARC's design will include a novel electrolyte membrane system that doesn't have a methane-to-hydrogen reformer, and transports oxygen in a form that allows it to react directly with almost any fuel. This new membrane system eliminates the need for a separate fuel processing system all while reducing overall costs. PARC's fuel cell will also operate at relatively low temperatures of 200-300ºC which allows it to use less expensive materials and maintain durability. With the use of these materials, the fuel cell system avoids the long-term durability problems associated with existing higher-temperature fuel cells, all while reducing overall costs.

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