A new product developed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has industry-shifting potential to help manage today’s increasingly distributed energy infrastructure. OptGrid has been trialed in rigorous lab experiments and on real power systems, and it has emerged as a commercial solution for real-time coordination of distributed energy resources (DERs). 

Analogous to a software that operates a household’s smart devices, OptGrid is the operating system for the new grid, which is being defined by distributed energy technologies in large numbers and great variety. OptGrid manages the complex connections between those technologies, facilitating efficient energy exchange and flexible power systems. With OptGrid, communities, utilities, microgrids, and residents are closer than ever to realizing a power system that operates at the full potential provided by modern energy resources. 

Under the “hood,” OptGrid utilizes a novel method for real-time optimization of power flow that is scalable to coordinate large numbers of distributed energy resources. 

Since its commercial release, OptGrid has been licensed by grid analytics group Utilidata, which will embed OptGrid into smart meters to control DERs at homes and businesses. Utilidata states that OptGrid will make DERs, including solar panels, batteries, and electric vehicle chargers, more cost-effective for customers and make their homes more resilience during outages. 

At NREL, OptGrid is the engine behind autonomous energy systems — a power system design that applies distributed controls and optimization across energy domains. 

As described in the above video, principal investigator Andrey Bernstein characterizes the OptGrid technology as “a cornerstone of a future vision of energy systems, where you can add different devices into the system in a way that is plug and play and that can support the growth of smart cities.” 

Since OptGrid’s formation in the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program, OptGrid has been demonstrated on a California microgrid-vineyard, in a rural Colorado neighborhood, and in NREL’s advanced research laboratories, where it controlled more than 100 physical power devices. Out of those early experiments, OptGrid has shown that its approach to real-time power flow is ready to make an impact on other systems across the world. 

“This technology can be part of a cleaner-energy world, where customers can use their own energy sources on the [grid] edge and orchestrate them so that the grid is stable and customers are satisfied,” Bernstein said. 

For more information, visit https://www.nrel.gov/grid/optgrid-controls.html