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  • Dan Powers

Combined NREL & INL 'SuperLab' Demonstrates Unique Hybrid Power Plant

For a 60-minute period in January 2023, a power plant like no other existed in the U.S. Mountain West. It contained a solar array, lithium-ion battery, hydrogen electrolyzers, and a nuclear reactor, all coordinating with each other to provide reliable power. Even more unusual, the plant combined real and simulated technologies hundreds of miles apart.

This unique power plant was part of a national research and development project to remotely connect energy assets in real time using the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Energy Sciences Network (ESnet). By linking capabilities at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the researchers created a collaborative "SuperLab," which allowed them to study energy systems currently not in existence. In this case, they demonstrated that renewable and nuclear energy, combined within a hybrid system, can complement each other well to support the grid.

The SuperLab demonstration successfully linked energy grid and power production simulations from two laboratories:

  • At NREL (Golden, Colorado), the ARIES platform provided a solar array, battery storage system, hydrogen fuel electrolyzer, and a controllable grid interface. Digital real-time simulators enabled the researchers to connect the models and responses on both NREL and INL sides.

  • At INL (Idaho Falls, Idaho), researchers readied simulations of a small modular nuclear reactor and high-temperature electrolysis in the Human Systems Simulation Laboratory (HSSL).

See also the Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) platform at NREL.

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