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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is collaborating with SFIP’s Microgrid Systems Lab (MSL), a partnership with Santa Fe Community College (SFCC), in their efforts to develop an advanced campus-wide microgrid for training, research, and testing and validation. NREL is a member of MSL, and SFCC is a founding MSL partner with responsibility for workforce and professional development initiatives.

The campus microgrid will be a state-of-the-art facility, unique among community colleges and comparable to university campus installations, with an emphasis on supporting the college’s educational mission, sustainability goals, operational efficiencies, and MSL’s strategic objectives. It will link existing assets, including a 1.5 megawatt photovoltaic array and a district heating and cooling system, with new technology that is capable of demonstrating the full range of advanced microgrid functionality.

In addition to allowing students to experience hands-on exercises in a functional environment, the campus microgrid is expected to eventually integrate with NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility for grid-scale simulations and modeling, along with other regional microgrid assets. This will allow MSL members and other utility and industry technology developers to test and validate new components and configurations in a controlled-consequence, real-world setting. The vision and objectives for the microgrid were developed through an intensive participatory design process led by MSL, incorporating input from SFCC faculty, staff, and administration, and an external experts panel featuring many of MSL’s member institutions (Duke Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Smart Cities Council, Sandia National Laboratories, and NREL).

Greenhouse “Nanogrid”

The first phase of this effort will focus on a single building energy system, sometimes known as a “nanogrid,” to be developed as part of the design and construction of a new Greenhouse facility. The SFCC Greenhouse will incorporate advanced aquaponics and hydroponics techniques, and will illustrate highly efficient uses of water, energy, and recyled wastes. The nanogrid, by optimizing energy generation, storage, and consumption, will therefore be an excellent complement. It also supports the goal of creating a replicable self-sustaining greenhouse configuration that can be located anywhere, including off-grid sites; and SFCC’s approach to an “energy systems” orientation in its curriculum design. The nanogrid design and development is funded by a Capital Outlay allocation from the State of New Mexico, and MSL serves as Project Manager.

NREL Contribution

As the nation’s primary energy efficiency and renewable energy laboratory, NREL develops clean energy and energy efficiency technologies and practices, advances related science and engineering, and provides knowledge and innovations to integrate energy systems at all scales. NREL serves as co-lead for DOE’s comprehensive new Grid Modernization Multi-Year Program Plan, a blueprint for the Department’s research, development, and demonstration agenda to enable a modernized grid. NREL will bring its unique array of experts and resources together to participate in 48 of the 88 awarded projects announced thus far in a $220 million funding round.

In its role with the long-term SFCC infrastructure development effort, NREL will serve as the primary technology design partner for the first phase nanogrid. Its contributions will encompass a general project assessment of goals and factors; establishing an energy and infrastructure baseline of current usage patterns and assets; a series of use case simulations for the Greenhouse; and a conceptual design for the nanogrid to best serve the project objectives. NREL will also evaluate the larger campus infrastructure goals as the context for this initial phase, with an eye toward subsequent stages of development.

Curriculum Offerings

In parallel with the campus infrastructure development, SFCC’s first offerings under its new “Smart Grid and Microgrid Program” are now launched and will be taught in Spring Semester of 2016, and will be further developed and integrated with other aspects of the college’s sustainable technologies offerings. This curriculum development was funded by Santa Fe County, and led by MSL Advisor Christian Casillas, PhD. It currently features a variety of courses linked to Certificates, and Associates of Applied Science Degrees, in the areas of Computer and Information Technology and Solar Technology.

The Microgrid Systems Laboratory (MSL), an SFIP joint venture with Santa Fe Community College, was pleased to help develop and participate in the Santa Fe Energy Summit of August, 2015. Convened by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, in collaboration with Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzalez, the Summit “…brought together experts, business and tribal leaders, public officials, and decision makers to advance the clean energy economy in northern New Mexico through innovation, investment, smart policies, and collaboration.” Senator Heinrich sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and has proposed and promoted legislation bearing on several aspects of grid modernization.MSL logo

MSL Managing Director David Breecker worked with staff at the City and the Senator’s New Mexico office to help plan and design the event. MSL was then asked to form a Microgrid Panel as one of three break-out sessions (along with Tribal Energy and the Energy/Water Nexus), which met following keynote remarks from the Senator, and from distinguished guest DOE Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. Video of the keynotes, including the Senator’s extensive discussion of the value of microgrids and MSL’s contributions, can be seen here, and a radio interview with the Senator and Mayor can be heard here. Read the rest of this entry »

SFIP’s Microgrid Systems Lab (MSL) recently took a significant step toward fulfilling the goal of integrating creative problem solving techniques with challenges and processes in other domains. The following post originally appeared in the MSL news blog on May 5, 2014:

In support of its human factors work on the DOE-India microgrid pilot feasibility study, MSL convened a cross-sector workshop of a dozen experts drawn from a broad range of  relevant disciplines and on-the-ground experience. The highly successful workshop was co-facilitated and hosted by the Santa Fe Art Institute (an affiliate of MSL partner institution the Santa Fe Innovation Park) and its director Sanjit Sethi, an expert in “design thinking” and its application to many problem-solving settings. It featured a user-centered design approach to the Human, Social, and Cultural (“HSC”) factors bearing on successful technology and energy projects in rural community settings. Joining Sanjit in leading the session were MSL General Manager David Breecker, and Christian Casillas, who recently completed his Ph.D. at the Energy and Resources Group of the University of California, Berkeley. Christian did his field work in community participatory energy planning in Nicaragua, and also has practical experience in India. Read the rest of this entry »

A team comprising SFIP’s Microgrid Systems Lab, the University of New Mexico’s Center for Emerging Energy Technologies, NM State University, and NM Tech has been selected to submit the New Mexico proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, under its current EPSCoR funding opportunity. DOE’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DOE EPSCoR) is a federal-state partnership program designed to enhance the capabilities of designated states and territories to conduct sustainable and nationally competitive energy-related research. DOE EPSCoR addresses this mission by fostering competitions for scientific and engineering research in states and territories that have demonstrated a commitment to develop their research bases and to improve the quality of science and engineering research conducted at their universities and colleges. Read the rest of this entry »

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