Co-ops Discover What’s New at NREL

An NREL researcher explains what the lab is researching with the hydrogen reactor in the background.

Colorado electric co-op managers learn how the power system integration program lab can test how a distribution system would react in specific situations.

Innovation, new technology and a glimpse into the future of the electric industry was on the agenda when the managers of Colorado’s electric cooperatives met December 5 and 6.

Hosted at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, the group’s winter meeting opened with a welcome and overview from Dr. Martin Keller, laboratory director, prior to a tour of NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility. Dr. Keller noted that the state-of-the-art facility is now five years old and is fulfilling its mission of providing a unique, contained and controlled place where high-impact energy projects can be researched prior to being integrated into the marketplace.

The co-op managers viewed some of the current projects under way at the lab. These included grid integration of electricity from renewable resources; grid integration of electric vehicles; micro grids; smart home applications; hydrogen and fuel cells; and more.

Fellow co-op CEO Brian Hannegan of Holy Cross Energy in Glenwood Springs explained the grid modernization project that his co-op is partnering with NREL on and the advantages of working at the Energy Systems Integration Facility. The project is studying how the co-op can utilize distributed energy resources within its system to supply electricity during times of peak demand.

It includes controlling rooftop solar, electric vehicles, water heaters and heating and cooling loads in a specific micro grid. All of that makes for a complex situation, “which is why we’re doing it at NREL,” Hannegan said. “Here we can test it without disrupting service for our members.”

Following the tour of NREL’s integration facility, the co-op managers spent the rest of the meeting focused on strategic planning for the future, safety procedures for employees, drones and how they can assist electric co-ops with linework, and potential legislation and Public Utilities Commission matters.