Three new technologies to make energy cleaner, more efficient

Three new technologies to make energy cleaner, more efficient
PNNL and its partners are developing three new technologies to make energy cleaner and more efficient with grants from DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E. The technologies will improve the power grid, make biofuel from seaweed and produce hydrogen. Credit: Joe Strupek on Flickr.

Three technologies - a computational tool to improve power grid planning, a process to create biofuel from kelp and a hybrid device that makes hydrogen and stores energy - are being developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and its partners under new projects just announced by the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E.

"The ARPA-E projects selected today highlight how American ingenuity can spur innovation and generate a wide range of technology options to address our nation's most pressing energy issues," Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a DOE news release. "As we look beyond COP21 (Paris climate talks), the energy technologies the Department of Energy invests in today will provide the solutions needed to combat climate change and develop a global low-carbon economy in the future."

The three projects are among 41 new technologies that were awarded a total of $125 million on Monday by Secretary Moniz in Washington, D.C. Summaries of the projects involving PNNL are below.

Solving a tough power grid problem

Power grid operators can better plan how to generate tomorrow's electricity with a new . Called High-Performance Power-Grid Operation, or HIPPO, the technology is being developed by a diverse team led by PNNL applied mathematician Feng Pan. Partners on the project are GE's Grid Solutions (formerly known as Alstom Grid), Midcontinent Independent Service Operator (also known as MISO) and Gurobi Optimization.

Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators need to develop day-ahead generation plans for participants in energy markets. Such plans define when power plants will run and how much power they will make during the next day. This has become increasingly challenging as the power grid grows in complexity, including the addition of intermittent renewable energy, new regulations and the increased use of natural gas and smart grid technologies.

Day-ahead generation plans are largely created by solving a mathematical optimization problem that ensures the power plants lined up to run the next day can be reliably operated at the lowest possible cost. HIPPO is being designed to more quickly and efficiently solve that underlying mathematical optimization problem, which is called the Security-Constraint Unit Commitment problem and is one of the most challenging computational problems in the power industry.

The PNNL-led team's new approach will explore and enhance algorithms on high-performance supercomputers to perform multiple mathematical procedures at the same time, a technique called parallelization.

The researchers expect HIPPO will solve the problem more accurately and within a fraction of the time than current methods. This should lead to improved power generation schedules and enable the power grid to work in a more flexible manner, including using more smart grid technologies and renewable energy. HIPPO could save consumers and power grid operators billions of dollars while also enabling greener and more sustainable grid operations.

If HIPPO works as planned, its approach could also inspire other high performance computing-based algorithms for complex problems in many other industries, such as scheduling air traffic and managing telecommunications, transportation, water and other critical national infrastructures.

ARPA-E awarded the project a total of about $3.1 million over three years.

Making hydrogen & storing energy with one device

Researchers at PNNL and Proton OnSite are developing the first prototype of an entirely new technology they're calling a "flow cell." The device will be a cross between a flow battery and an electrolyzer, which uses electricity to split water molecules. The technology offers flexibility by having two modes of operation: either creating hydrogen to power fuel cells for cars or buildings, or storing energy to balance electricity demand and supply on the .

The flow cell will combine components of two established technologies: a proton exchange membrane electrolyzer and a redox flow battery. Combining the two technologies takes advantage of both of their best qualities. The net result is a highly efficient process, with up to 80 percent of the energy initially used still being present in the final products of hydrogen and electricity.

Proton OnSite Research & Development Vice President Katherine Ayers is the project's lead researcher and PNNL materials scientist Wei Wang is the project co-lead. ARPA-E awarded the project a total of about $2.5 million over three years, with PNNL and Proton Onsite each receiving approximately $1.25M.

Seaweed: the new biofuel

Biofuel to run cars and generators could come from large swaths of seaweed grown in the open ocean. That's the vision of a new project being led by Marine BioEnergy, Inc., in collaboration with PNNL and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego.

Marine BioEnergy has proposed a patented method to grow one of the fastest producers of biomass, giant kelp, in the open ocean. Sunshine and space are abundant in the open ocean, but waters are too deep there for kelp to grow on the sea floor. Instead, Marine Bioenergy will develop technology to enable the eventual attachment of kelp to large grids towed by inexpensive robotic submarines that cycle between sunlight at the sea surface and nutrients in deeper waters. A team led by Scripps' James Leichter will develop and test critical technology for open ocean cultivation of kelp.

Once farmed, the kelp will be turned into biocrude oil and other hydrocarbon liquids through a conversion process developed by PNNL. Led by Laboratory Fellow Douglas Elliott, the PNNL team will develop a multi-step method that will combine hydrothermal liquefaction, catalytic hydrothermal gasification and hydrotreating - all of which involve changes in temperature, pressure and water - to convert biomass. PNNL's method will cost-effectively turn kelp into hydrocarbons that are ready for final processing at a commercial oil refinery.

ARPA-E awarded the project a total of about $2.1 million over three years, with approximately $479,000 going to PNNL.


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Nov 25, 2015
And just in time. Replacing the simpler system of few powerplants will require new technologies, especially in regard to control and security. My power company will have to deal with my PV system, me buying their nine cent special power for my car at midnight, and my eventual home batteries, which can be used in the daytime by the utility for peaking.

That requires a lot of control, and the challenges seem great. For those of you in the biz, the opportunities are significant, and rewards probably as well.

Nov 25, 2015
Wow. Five (5), of you disagree with me.

Let's hear your arguments.

Nov 25, 2015
Wow. Five (5), of you disagree with me.


Might be something to do with the five "me-my"'s in one paragraph.

Let's hear your arguments.


Well, Cher you should be glad the nice peoples at physorg had couyons like you in mind when it was decided not let in negative number votes because the "you-in-the-biz" at the end would have gotten you into the minus scores and you would owing some instead of having 1.9 karma points in the bank.

What I mean Cher is one paragraph and one more sentence was a whole lot of foolishment.

Nov 25, 2015
Oh, ..personal pique, then, . . is it?

I knew the problem would be with you.

Nov 25, 2015
I knew the problem would be with you.


Well that is a nice theory Cher. But I am just the one Skippy out of five. So I guess makes me only 20% of the problem, eh?


Nov 25, 2015
But OUR problem is how to do all the things I brought up. My neighbor will also have a plug-in hybrid and home batteries soon to augment his PV array. With the guy across the street, that's 10-12 intermittent kW of single-phase supply in the three-phase supply transformer in the substation feeding that circuit, or the local neighborhood120/208 suburban transformer.

But it is manifested as decreased load, not added power, so the effects should be minimal.

Nov 25, 2015
This cannot be looked at as us sending power back through the lines to the substation, but as additional supply at the ends of the distribution line. That is why the imbalance results in some differential heating of the three-phase supply transformer, but because one phase is cooler, not hotter,so the effect is not one of total heat. It is heat we want to avoid.

Nov 25, 2015
In my neighborhood, the 12-21kV conversion put a larger transformer on the pole, serving more homes. Any power we generate will be used by the rest of the customers on the secondary of that pole-mounted transformer, and not even get past it as power, but just as load reduction.

Nov 25, 2015
But OUR problem is how to do all the things I brought up.


Well if it is a problem for you, go talk to the rest of peoples in neighborhood Skippy.

My neighbor will also have a plug-in hybrid and home batteries soon to augment his PV array.


Hooyeei!!! You are on a roll, one down.

With the guy across the street, that's 10-12 intermittent kW of single-phase supply in the three-phase supply transformer in the substation feeding that circuit, or the local neighborhood120/208 suburban transformer.


See? I been telling you that you been wasting your time here Cher.

Just once answer honest. What purpose your slogans and cheap shots you fling out since day one of being here? Have you converted ONE SINGLE PERSON to the cause? Have you changed ONE MIND? You accuse people of playing games with you, and that is all you have done since day one. Your problem is you are not very good at it and think that is our fault.

Nov 25, 2015
I was using the collective OUR as in former and present power company engineers. You do not qualify.

Nov 25, 2015
I was using the collective OUR as in former and present power company engineers.


But the problem with that Cher. Nobody believes you. You are seen in the same group as Bennie-Skippy. And you never miss an opportunity to doff you silly looking pointy cap (with the stars and moons on him). Real engineers don't wear silly looking pointy caps.

You do not qualify.


Hooeee, Cher that is the relief. I don't know what Mrs-Ira-Skippette would think if I had to wear the silly looking pointy cap just to fool around with my physorg podnas on the interweb.


Nov 25, 2015
P.S. for Everybody.

In case you missed him, here is glam-Skippy wearing his silly looking pointy cap. With the stars and moons on him.

http://www.kamburoff.com/ (Not even ol Ira-Skippy can make this stuffs up.)

What I do not understand is why a person would put up the interweb page with a cartoon of him self wearing a silly looking pointy cap (with stars and moons on him) while he is telling all those tall tales about being the general engineer in six different kinds of engineering and trying to drum up business with his pictures of Ohm's Law. It is not very dignified or professional like.

Nov 26, 2015
" It is not very dignified or professional like."
--------------------------------

. . . . says the deckhand on a riverboat.

If Ira were technical he might understand the image and those of the distorted waveshapes on my web page. He could see how distorted currents acting through circuit impedances produce distorted voltage waves, and depending on the shape of those waves, can mean real trouble for the electrical system components.

The voltage and current traces are from actual equipment operating in Silicon Valley.

Nov 26, 2015
If Ira were technomechanical he might understand the image
"The guy was great! Bring him back."

" This guy has answered the right calling. Excellent at what he's doing,"
www.kamburoff.com

-If george weren't a deranged psychopath he might understand that being a pompous asshole is not a way of getting respect.

It is a way of getting people to laugh at you.

We're you in the comedy business as well georgie?

Nov 30, 2015
"Since single-phase load currents return to the transformer or panel on the Neutral...."

What about 1-phase, 208/240VAC, no neutral? These are common US configurations.

Nov 30, 2015
I've built cell sites using the above 1ph|208/240VAC two wire in PGE turf.

We pulled virtual neutral for electrical outlets, fluorescent lights and other ancillaries by tying to ground at the disconnect... approved, or rather insisted on by PGE, in the early 2000's.

Nov 30, 2015
And this has been bugging me too, George.
May I call you George? I think that's a respectful moniker.

Even if your home has single phase supply, you're not feeding excess power back on one phase of three since you're drawing from two of three phases.

At the very least, you should be drawing on an open-delta, which means you're drawing from 2 of three phase power. At the open-delta transformer point- easy to see if they're on a pole 'cause there are 3 of them, there are two other branches clocked 120 apart, electrically, for load balancing purposes.

And by all means, please elucidate my errors, if there are any.

Nov 30, 2015
Abedec, we do not use open delta systems here. We use three phase wye secondaries sending out single-phase radials (12-21kV), to the distribution transformers on your pole or in your vault, typically for 120/240 systems and for the 120/208 underground applications.

Nov 30, 2015
abededarian, That is correct about the Neutrals. By driving the Ground, you have established a Ground Plane for everything on that circuit, so they share common electrical references.

It is like the Ground Plane of your cell phone or other electrical device.

Nov 30, 2015
abecedarian, We often transmit power in delta configuration, since we do not need a Ground reference. The static line above the current carriers is for lightning protection and is grounded, but not referenced to the conductors.

We often distribute power in either delta or wye configurations. We use the wye because it gives us dual voltages, and we use usually the 480/277 voltage for factories and 208/120 for offices and low-current applications. Both come from wye-configured transformer secondaries. 240-Volt secondaries can be split with a Neutral for 120 Volt operation.

If you are interested, I have a graph of how loads combine and sum in Neutrals, why they were used, and why they are trouble now.

Nov 30, 2015
Abedec, we do not use open delta systems here. We use three phase wye secondaries sending out single-phase radials (12-21kV), to the distribution transformers on your pole or in your vault, typically for 120/240 systems and for the 120/208 underground applications.

What type of transformer is that "distribution transformer"? <- this is where the open-delta would be, if used.

Nov 30, 2015
abededarian, That is correct about the Neutrals. By driving the Ground, you have established a Ground Plane for everything on that circuit, so they share common electrical references.

It is like the Ground Plane of your cell phone or other electrical device.

That's a bit of a stretch, but I get what you mean.

Nov 30, 2015
abecedarian, We often transmit power in delta configuration, since we do not need a Ground reference. The static line above the current carriers is for lightning protection and is grounded, but not referenced to the conductors.

We often distribute power in either delta or wye configurations. We use the wye because it gives us dual voltages, and we use usually the 480/277 voltage for factories and 208/120 for offices and low-current applications. Both come from wye-configured transformer secondaries. 240-Volt secondaries can be split with a Neutral for 120 Volt operation.

If you are interested, I have a graph of how loads combine and sum in Neutrals, why they were used, and why they are trouble now.

While I may not agree with you on many things, I am of the open-mind type, so sure, send them to me.

Nov 30, 2015
Well, can't quote myself, but I said:
"What type of transformer is that "distribution transformer"? <- this is where the open-delta would be, if used."

Missed the part where you said it would be single phase radials.

Dec 02, 2015
abecedarian,
... If you are interested, I have a graph of how loads combine and sum in Neutrals, why they were used, and why they are trouble now.
Two days pass and you haven't sent things to me.

Dec 03, 2015
abededarian, sorry, I lost the thread. What is your email address?

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