Decarbonizing via Integrated Energy Systems

The Challenge

As renewable energy and storage become more affordable and available, we see an opportunity for a future integrated energy infrastructure. The ability to link this infrastructure will help accelerate finding economically feasible zero-carbon solutions across sectors. 

How are we making a difference?

The Energy Technologies Area (ETA) is working on technological breakthroughs to optimize and ensure security and reliability of our growing connected energy systems. Whether through advancing long-duration energy storage to enable a smarter and more resilient power grid, demonstrating the capabilities of grid-interactive efficient buildings or leveraging mobility modeling and high-performance computational solutions to understand the long term implications of new technologies and travel patterns on energy use, ETA researchers offer unique expertise to advance integrated energy systems. Our researchers partner with numerous external stakeholders to ensure that the work we are doing at Berkeley Lab can have real-world applications in improving our power, buildings, and transportation sectors.

 

ETA is supporting the transition from a traditional power grid that offered a one-way flow of electricity to a modernized power grid, which will allow buildings, vehicles and renewable energy generation, storage and distributed energy resources to be part of an integrated system. Our researchers are developing computational tools and  techniques so these systems can cooperate for a common optimal goal of minimizing total carbon, with constraints on economic costs to realize multi-sector decarbonization at scale. Our researchers also work to advance long-duration energy storage technologies to enable more intermittent power from renewable sources to connect with the grid, ultimately making the evolving smart electric grid cleaner and more resilient. 

Grid Level Storage

Long-Duration Energy Storage

Developing viable and affordable long duration grid-scale energy storage is key to a modernized power grid that is cleaner and more resilient. Our researchers are working to understand and optimize next generation fuel-cell and related energy-conversion and energy-storage components and materials, mainly through physics-based multi-scale modeling of cell behavior, advanced diagnostics of cell properties, and synthesis of novel key materials. 

When considering Li-ion as a potential solution to the storage needs for sustainability and resilience, the disadvantage that stands out is that it is not fundamentally designed for long durations. In addition, the useful lifetime of Li-ion batteries is comparatively shorter than most other grid infrastructure.

Now is the time to rethink how large-scale energy storage technologies can be designed to use low-cost, abundant raw materials, scale to large sizes economically, and reduce material needs, where possible. For example, a thermal based storage system can take advantage of natural self-insulation that occurs at large scales but that does not occur at small scales, reducing insulation costs as the system grows larger. Similarly, battery technologies that can minimize the need for extra materials as the system size grows larger will facilitate the project economics of large systems. Within ETA, such concepts are being tested using a suite of technologies, including computer modeling for planning and detailed characterization tools for testing and diagnosis. 

Cybersecurity

Integrated energy systems and a modernized grid will add the complexity of deeper links throughout the energy production-to-use chain. Our researchers work to expand on the role of security in integrated energy cyber-physical systems for detection of threats and system instabilities, as well as computational methods that mitigate them.

Our expertise in building research provides a strong foundation to expand our focus towards an integrated systems approach. From demand flexibility strategies such as grid-interactive efficient buildings to thermal energy storage solutions for building envelope applications, our researchers are pursuing building technologies and strategies that enable the pursuit of zero-carbon solutions.

Demand Flexibility

Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings (GEBs)

Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings (GEBs) are becoming an important resource for the electric grid in the U.S. New research at ETA explores how to develop grid-interactive efficient buildings that combine the capabilities of energy efficient buildings with the capability to provide grid services while developing the high demand flexibility potential of GEB technologies such as thermal energy storage and building envelope technologies.

Thermal Energy

Tunable Thermal Storage for Smart Building Envelopes

In order to provide flexibility that is essential for increasing the reliability and resiliency of our energy systems, we are developing dynamically tunable and solid-state thermal energy storage materials integrated with thermal switches for building envelope application. This new technology has the potential to enable optimal thermal routing in both space and time and provide the greatest potential for demand flexibility.

The rapid trend of transportation electrification leads to unprecedented electric vehicle (EV) charging load on the power grid systems, which may cause serious grid reliability issues for the already-aging grid infrastructure. EV mobility patterns further complicate the infrastructure system planning and operation problems. ETA’s researchers apply expertise in high-performance computing, machine learning for autonomy, mobility decision science and mobility systems, and emerging battery technologies to develop integrated systems solutions for sustainable transportation. New storage technologies are needed to respond to the scale of storage required to meet the demand for a variety of applications and cycle regimes in the existing and future transportation and grid infrastructure. 

Urban Mobility Modeling

Envisioning Smarter Cities

The performance of an urban transportation system depends on millions of individual decisions—from where to travel and how to get there to where to live and work. Modeling these decisions, and all of the interactions between travelers and mobility providers as they make them, allows researchers at Berkeley Lab to evaluate ways to ease congestion and improve mobility in the short term and to understand the long term implications of new technologies and travel patterns on energy use and urban environments. 

The modeling performed at the Lab spans different time scales and levels of resolution. To capture the operations of transportation systems in full detail, a joint effort between Berkeley Lab and the Institute for Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley has developed the Behavior, Energy, Autonomy, and Mobility (BEAM) Modeling Framework. This modeling framework incorporates four key components of urban transportation systems: Behavior, Energy, Autonomy, and Mobility, enabling highly resolved simulations of current future mobility systems. 

BEAM can simulate mobility decisions of individual travelers based on their socio-economic and demographic characteristics including EV charging behavior and interactions with charging infrastructure or provide detailed analyses of the energy impacts of changing mobility trends. BEAM harnesses cutting-edge concurrent computing technology to enable simulation of millions of agents and is at the forefront of modeling traveler behavior and the operations of emerging transportation modes.

High-Performance Computing

Solving EV-Grid Integration

ETA’s transportation and power grid researchers are using high-performance computing to find solutions to handle the increasing pressure EVs place on the power grid. Our researchers develop novel models with enough scalability, fidelity and computational breakthroughs to enable more effective decision-making over the coupled grid-transportation-EV systems. 

Our transportation system is rapidly modernizing, and the trend is towards transportation electrification. Some of our biggest challenges to grid/transportation integration include modeling the complex interactions between the electric grid (planning and operation) and the electric vehicle behaviors (travel and charge) within the context of the entire transportation system. Solving the exact optimal solution is computationally hard, especially for the full scale problem. 

Super-fast solutions with novel algorithms are needed, leveraging high-performance computing technology. In order to improve the model fidelity and scalability for the metropolitan-scale transportation and electric grid systems, such computational techniques are essential to enable faster simulation, optimization, and control with reduced solving time. The goal is to support reliable, cost-effective planning of high-power charging infrastructures, real-time or near real-time operations of EVs and charging infrastructure, and analysis of environmental impacts. 

Long-Haul Trucks

The Future of Commercial Trucking

The commercial trucking industry is heavily reliant on diesel fuel, and even though diesel trucks account for just a small fraction of motor vehicles, they are responsible for almost one third of motor vehicle CO2 emissions.There are currently two main pathways to electrify trucks – fuel cells and batteries – and both are actively being pursued by researchers in ETA.

Heavy-duty vehicles account for almost one-quarter of the fuel consumed annually in the U.S. and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, contribute to 23% of U.S. transportation emissions of greenhouse gases. Successfully shifting our transportation sector away from fossil fuels will require advances in both battery and fuel cell technology, and our future transportation system will involve an integration of both since available infrastructure will vary based on geographic location. 

Long-haul trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells are on the horizon, and Berkeley Lab scientists are playing a leading role in a new DOE consortium called the Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck (M2FCT.org) to advance this technology. Battery-powered electric trucks have seen the most dramatic improvements in technology in recent years, making the battery costs more affordable and competitive. According to experts in ETA, with appropriate policies around adoption incentives, charging infrastructure, and electricity pricing, widespread electrification of commercial trucking fleets is viable.

Research Highlights

Pioneering Work Modeling How Electric Vehicles Interact with the Grid

A Q&A with scientist Bin Wang on how Berkeley Lab is helping cities prepare for a major shift in our transportation and grid sectors
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Coming Down the Pike

Hydrogen fuel cells are on the rise: Germany has rolled out hydrogen-powered trains, the San Francisco Bay Area will soon see the nation’s first hydrogen fuel cell ferry, and sales of fuel-cell vehicles are up globally.
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How Managing Building Energy Demand Can Aid the Clean Energy Transition

New Berkeley Lab study finds that more energy efficient and flexible buildings could be a substantial resource for the electric grid
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