NREL Teams with MSL, SFCC for Campus Microgrid

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is collaborating with MSL and 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.