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Renewable Energy Helps Revive A Dead Power Grid

The rising amounts of Renewable Energy will reduce greenhouse gases. However, engineers worry that the restoring of wind- and solar-rich grids after blackouts would be difficult. In August, the secretary of Energy, Dan Brouillette, visited the department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo. to mark the pending launch of an experiment. Brouillette said that it would use a futuristic grid model that will test the federal efforts to de-risk the nation’s electric supply.

However, the test was still months away. At a nearby 300-acre facility called the Flatirons Campus, the model was assembled, equipped with a solar array, wind turbines, and a giant lithium-ion battery. Researchers at the lab have been preparing to add a hydrogen energy storage system and electric vehicle charging stations. It would reflect a future “hybrid” power grid.

Then, a transformer blew up. It plunged Flatirons into darkness and prepared the stage for a riskier test. Ben Kroposki, director of power system engineering at NREL, explained, “People were saying, ‘Hey, we have to get a big [diesel-powered] generator in here, it will take weeks to fix the substation.’ And the researchers were like, ‘Hey, we have all these renewable assets here. Can we use those instead of just running on diesel fuel?'”

Among the experts’ team, Kroposki is one of them who has been studying the question for years. When an electric grid runs with more than 80% Renewable Energy, the group worries that it could behave differently. An extensive power system was never restarted like this after a blackout without bringing the outside power.

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