As the nation continues to embrace alternative energy sources, the challenge of distribution becomes more pronounced. Utilities, providers, transmission operators and manufacturers need to find an efficient and reliable way to get all that new power to the grid.


Recognizing the urgency of that challenge, the U.S. Department of Energy recently dedicated a new facility for research into clean-energy grid-integration solutions. Scientists are wasting no time in embarking on potentially cutting-edge work.


In September, Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz dedicated the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo. Touting it as the nation’s first major research facility focused on clean-energy grid integration and deployment, he underscored the importance of the relationship between the two facilities.


“New NREL supercomputing capabilities will support the groundbreaking science and innovation we need to address the effects of global climate change and pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future,” Moniz said.


To demonstrate those capabilities, Moniz also announced that the ESIF will be the home for Peregrine, a new warm-water, liquid-cooled supercomputer, developed by NREL, HP and Intel. Described as the world’s most energy-efficient, high-performance computing data center, it also will represent the world’s largest computing capability dedicated solely to renewable energy and energy-efficient research.


With all of this power behind it, the ESIF already has two major projects underway. On the same day as the dedication, NREL and Toyota announced a collaborative research effort to integrate plug-in electric vehicles into the grid. Scientists and engineers at ESIF and NREL’s Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility will use 20 Prius plug-in hybrid electric cars from Toyota to develop and explore ways to further integrate the use of electric vehicles into the nation’s electricity infrastructure.


At the same time, NREL announced that it is working with the U.S. army to develop the Consolidated Utility Base Energy System. Through testing at the ESIF, scientists will be developing a solar, battery and generator hybrid power system that provides electricity to forward-operating military bases.