Learn how to maximize energy resources and avoid high cost of power outages

by Brianna Crandall — March 31, 2017 — What clean energy technologies can you most effectively use at your facilities? How long can your building sustain power during an outage? How can you reduce your energy bills as you transition to stronger sustainability policies?

These are just a few of the questions that energy managers ask themselves on a daily basis, according to Daron Christopher of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). As large storms like Hurricane Sandy have demonstrated, corporations stand to endure high costs from power outages, leading businesses to seek more resilient and sustainable energy options.

Map of PV LCOE vs. commercial rate

Graphic from National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Fortunately, there is a platform that can help organizations better evaluate their energy opportunities and maximize energy resources, and soon it will be available to a wider audience, including private industry, to access and utilize.

In what was originally designed to help the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, pursue its goal of net zero energy consumption, the DOE, along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), developed the first version of what became a platform known as REopt, or Renewable Energy Optimization. Now, its latest version analyzes extensive data sets — including everything from energy consumption and utility rates to land availability. In addition, it also recommends a cost-effective combination of technologies and operation strategies that assists organizations in meeting their energy goals.

How it works

The platform uses integration, optimization. and automation capabilities to provide actionable insight to leaders. Some common uses of the platform are renewable energy screenings, in which REopt analyzes technology cost and performance to identify the optimal technology mix for an organization’s energy targets.

NREL graph

REopt helps leaders devise solutions to their energy challenges, such as the pictured cost-optimal economic dispatch strategy for a combined PV and battery system. Graphic from NREL

Today, REopt is a dynamic platform that can perform quick preliminary screenings to detailed modeling and microgrid designs. It also optimizes the performance of existing systems, says Christopher.

Participating partners/clients

Since the platform was created, a wide variety of other organizations have benefitted from REopt, including Frito-Lay, Arizona State University, Wells Fargo, and a group of remote rural communities in Alaska.  REopt was even recently used to identify potential improvements in the operation of a microgrid on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco.

Challenges addressed

The REopt platform includes everything from determining a facility’s renewable energy potential to strategies for using microgrids to maintain operations during outages, helping partners address a broad range of energy challenges.

For example, federal agencies have been challenged to generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, notes Christopher. Using REopt, the DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) has conducted more than 7,000 renewable energy optimization screenings across 18 federal agencies, which helps increase their renewable energy use and identify projects with greater returns on investment to taxpayers.

REopt has also helped U.S. armed forces to reduce their energy footprint. NREL worked with the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps to conduct an energy screening of more than 280 bases, which ultimately led to procurement of more than 260 megawatts of renewable energy, including a 13-megawatt solar facility at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune, in partnership with Duke Energy.

FEMP graphic

Graphic from Federal Energy Management Program

Using REopt, NREL also helped the Department of Defense understand how renewable assets, installed to reduce energy costs and increase renewable consumption, could increase resiliency.  At Los Alamitos Army Airfield, for example, pairing solar and storage alongside existing diesel generators would allow the site to increase survivability from four to nine days with existing on-site diesel fuel.

Finally, REopt has also helped private industry meet their energy goals, says Christopher. NREL evaluated seven Frito-Lay plants and identified those that could reach net zero energy at least cost.  Frito-Lay ultimately achieved a status of near net zero at its SunChips plant in Casa Grande, Arizona, through a combination of solar and biomass resources.

Looking ahead

According to Christopher, plans are currently in progress to develop a Web-based version of the platform that would be available for commercial use in the near future. To learn more about REopt and how it can help your organization maximize energy resources, check out this NREL REopt fact sheet.