The FREEDM Systems Center at NC State University, in conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the University of Washington and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), was recently awarded $25 Million from the Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to form the Universal Interoperability for Grid‐Forming Inverters (UNIFI) Consortium. UNIFI brings together leading researchers, industry stakeholders, utilities, and system operators to advance grid-forming (GFM) inverter technologies. UNIFI will focus on integrating these inverters into electric grids at any scale to enable high penetration of inverter-based resources (IBR) like solar, wind and battery storage.
FREEDM has a leadership role in the Consortium management and will leverage our expertise and lab facilities for research. “This is an exciting opportunity for FREEDM to advance our efforts in grid modernization,” said Iqbal Husain, Executive Director of FREEDM. “We also look forward to working closely with our industry partners to enable more renewable energy on the grid.”
Industry collaboration is an important component of the Consortium. FREEDM member Danfoss will collaborate on megawatt-scale grid forming converter controls and testing. The Danfoss high-power laboratory in Research Triangle Park is dedicated to research, commercialization, and deployment of medium-voltage drives. FREEDM member Hitachi will be actively involved in the demonstration and commercialization aspects of the consortium through their Power Grids division.
“I congratulate FREEDM Systems Center for receiving this Department of Energy award that will allow them to continue their innovative electric grid modernization work. The current American electric grid is woefully outdated, threatening U.S. national security, the economy, the environment, and vulnerable communities”, said Congresswoman Deborah Ross, US Representative for North Carolina’s second district which includes NC State University, Danfoss and Hitachi. “I strongly support FREEDM’s work to modernize our grid and facilitate renewable energy integration—and North Carolina’s leadership in renewable energy generally—because I believe that it is our country’s best hope for a sustainable, climate-secure future.”
The electric grid is becoming more complicated as we add clean energy sources based on power electronics rather than large rotating machines powered by fossil fuels. In the early 1900s, the leading associations of power systems engineers came together to define how to operate multiple power plants in a single grid. UNIFI is a similar effort to bring experts from the federal government, academia and industry together to define how tomorrow’s grid will operate when there are millions of interconnected IBRs. The five year effort will develop new technologies, new software, new testbeds, new standards and a new workforce.
In addition to the roles of Danfoss and Hitachi, other FREEDM partners engaged in UNIFI include Eaton, Schneider Electric, New York Power Authority, Typhoon HIL and PowerAmerica.
At the FREEDM Center, we’re building the internet of energy: a network of distributed energy resources that intelligently manages power using secure communications and advanced power electronics. Our research priorities include power electronics packaging, controls theory, solid state transformers, fault isolation devices, and power systems simulation and demonstration.