Most people do not pay much attention to power in their homes until the power stops working. As technologies continue to advance, transporting sufficient energy through power grids and understanding how various energy systems interact will become an increasing challenge. INL has established its Power & Energy Real-Time Laboratory (PERL), which uses Real-Time Digital Simulators (RTDS) to address power and energy challenges that will inevitably arise with the country's changing needs and the demands of renewable energy.
The PERL uses RTDS to model just about any dynamic power-related problem a scientist might want to solve. Using RTDS, researchers at INL can simulate different scenarios that power utilities might face, various energy needs consumers will have, and how renewable energies will interact with the grid. The laboratory is designed to enhance our understanding of the different grid systems, their features, and their interactions. Research in this laboratory will help scientists and utility companies mitigate problems before they cascade throughout the systems.
When one person drives their electric vehicle home from work, they plug it in and expect it to be fully charged the next day. But what happens to the power grid when a neighborhood has 100 people doing this? Or 1,000? Or 10,000? Or more? This is the the type of question the PERL is designed to answer. They can take data from an individual source and scale it up to simulate what would happen for any number of situations. In fact, researchers at the PERL are working with the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Laboratory to answer that specific question.
INL hosts the largest RTDS facility of any national laboratory; however, in order to get the most out of it, researchers also work closely with scientists from other national laboratories and academia. Most recently, they've partnered with the
National Renewable Energy Laboratory to answer questions about applying hydrogen fuel technology to the grid system. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory also has RTDS. The two groups are directly connected, meaning that as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientists collect data from their fuel cell research, it is immediately accessible by INL's PERL. This research will provide dramatic advances in our understanding of how hydrogen fuel cells can support the power grid.
The PERL is in the process of establishing an RTDS connection with
Florida State University,
Washington State University, and other national laboratories and universities. Researchers continue to seek out new partnerships in their quest to solve some of the most pressing energy-related problems and to meet the power needs of the country.