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Systems Engineering Building Advances Power Grid Research

Newly dedicated facility brings suite of capabilities to the Pacific Northwest

September 2015
Systems Engineering Building Advances Power Grid Research
From left to right: BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer, Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Dan Newhouse heard PNNL researcher Karen Studarus describe PNNL's power grid research inside the new Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center, one of the features of the new Systems Engineering Building.

Federal and state officials joined regional business leaders and PNNL staff on August 19 to dedicate a $9 million facility that will enable breakthroughs in electricity research and already is enhancing connections between the national laboratory, industry, universities, and utilities.

"The capabilities housed in this facility are central to PNNL's scientific vision to 'understand, predict, and control complex adaptive systems.' The grid is an excellent example of such a system," said Steven Ashby, PNNL Laboratory Director. "Transforming it from an early 20th century machine to a 21st century engine for innovation represents a huge scientific and technical challenge."

"The new Systems Engineering Building at PNNL will help drive the science and engineering necessary to provide a clean energy future for the nation," Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, DOE Deputy Secretary of Energy, said to the crowd of about 200. "It will let researchers here address national challenges related to the electricity delivery and energy conservation from cybersecurity to reliability."

Taking the Heat for Cool Research

Not even a 100-degree summer day could wilt the enthusiasm at the outdoor ceremony, although attendees eagerly flowed into the building after the speakers concluded. Inside, researchers posted along a self-guided tour route described their work already underway, such as power grid forecasting, system controls, and renewables integration

The mission of the SEB is to develop and deploy real-time tools across transmission, distribution, and end-use loads to improve renewable integration, use buildings as an asset, and improve reliability and resiliency. The new facility is another chapter in PNNL's multi-decade history of providing impactful research expertise to the nation's biggest energy challenges.

"By linking SEB's new, high-speed data streams with PNNL's high-performance computing capabilities, we can see the grid as never before, enabling improvements to today's tools as well as completely new, predictive capabilities," Ashby said.

A Regional Asset with National Impact

The 24,000-square-foot, LEED Gold-certified building includes office space, conference rooms, and a Building Operations Control Center that is a "living laboratory" tracking energy and water use throughout PNNL’s Richland campus. The Interoperability Laboratory is a testing platform for grid software tools. The Power Electronics Laboratory provides dedicated space for electric vehicle charging, energy storage, and controls research, with room on the adjacent outdoor pad to connect to utility scale energy storage units, environmental chambers, or commercial grade roof top air conditioners.

"This is exactly the right facility, at exactly the right time," said Elliot Mainzer, administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration.

The Systems Engineering Building
The Systems Engineering Building at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a state-of-the-art facility that will further research in electricity markets, generation, transmission, distribution, and buildings-to-grid integration.

Central to the building are two control centers that can be reconfigured for users ranging from reliability coordinators to distribution system operators. This allows the SEB to serve as a back-up operations center for regional utilities—an ability to collaborate for training and in times of crisis that U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse called "another example of PNNL's ongoing dedication to the community."

Along a similar theme, U.S. Senator Patty Murray remarked that 'PNNL will transition its research out of the laboratory and into the real world,' helping to lower energy costs and increase clean energy.

"The SEB enables researchers to work side-by-side with industry to accelerate these advancements, which are critical to achieving DOE’s vision of a reliable, secure and sustainable power system," Ashby said.

Research conducted in SEB is funded by multiple DOE programs and offices including the DOE Grid Modernization Initiative, the Office of Science, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

Watch the SEB Advances Power Grid Research video to hear from PNNL's grid research leaders.


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