As we trend toward more renewables and distributed energy resources (DERs), the design of the electric distribution system itself imposes physical limitations. These system constraints could lead to issues like overloaded power lines and faults that propagate freely.
But what if we could restructure the underlying system to support greater renewable integration and system resilience? To that end, a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)–led project is working on a new type of grid device enabled by silicon carbide (SiC) switches and other medium voltage (MV) power electronics that could segment sections of the grid, providing advanced control for flexibility and resilience for our power systems.
The project team is first designing a megawatt-scale prototype converter that provides native “back-to-back” conversion — AC to AC power — at distribution voltages (i.e., not requiring transformers to step down voltage to levels typically used in electronic power conversion). By using MV SiC-based power modules, the converters could be 1/5th the size and 1/10th the weight of alternate equivalent systems, which are trailer-sized and include heavy transformers. Then the team will connect the power converter into NREL’s MV testbed to validate new grid control approaches that the prototype enables.
The project is named “Grid Application Development, Testbed, and Analysis for MV SiC (GADTAMS)” and is funded by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office.
“With back-to-back converters between feeders, we can go one step higher in providing resilience across the distribution system,” said Akanksha Singh, a project lead at NREL.
“This technology wasn’t necessary before because we didn’t have so many distributed energy resources on the system, but now we have feeders that are becoming saturated with PV; apart from storage, these feeders don’t have anywhere to inject that excess power,” Singh said. “A new approach to grid interconnection could enable advanced forms of power sharing and provide much-enhanced grid resilience.”
A future grid that features such converters would have the capability to control the flow of power between sections of the grid, shunting excess load or DER-based generation to feeder sections or adjacent circuits as needed, adding new versatility to power distribution. Networked microgrids could protect against the propagation of faults from one microgrid to the next while still allowing controlled power dispatch between the two systems and the macrogrid as well.
During outage recovery, microgrids could be formed that then stabilize neighboring microgrid systems, as envisioned in NREL’s autonomous energy systems research. In general, the two sides of the converter do not need to be synchronized in frequency or even exact voltage level at all — a major shift from the modern power system. But prior to proving any of these applications, NREL and others will first need to build the necessary controls.
“We are developing very novel controls for upcoming grid architectures,” Singh said. “We have local controls on inverters, and we have hierarchical controls that coordinate between grid partitions. With regard to grid support, these controls can do it all: dynamic stability, frequency support, black start, fault ride-through and protection.”
Unlike anything currently available, the NREL testbed provides an environment to validate medium-voltage grid solutions with real power hardware-in-the-loop and real-time grid simulation. For this project, NREL and partners are interested in the full range of use cases for back-to-back SiC converters and have teamed with utility Southern California Edison to inform on utility applications, as well as industry partners General Atomics and Eaton to seek out a commercial path for the technology.
The SiC converter is being built in two halves by project partners Ohio State University and Florida State University. The three-phase converter prototype will be rated for 330 kW and will implement a full thermal and electrical design appropriate for utility use. Traditionally, the same AC-to-AC conversion process requires stepping-down the voltage to low-voltage levels where conventional power electronics can be used, which results in heavy and expensive transformer equipment. The MV SiC option takes advantage of the superior voltage ratings of devices to minimize weight, cost, and size, which makes the technology far more practical and economical for system-wide deployment.
Still, the converter technology is only one aspect of fulfilling flexible interconnections. This framework currently lacks the standardization that exists for so many other recent grid innovations. At NREL, the project team hopes to collect baseline operational data to jumpstart the conversation around how to integrate MV converters in future grids.
“This is a new application that doesn’t exist anywhere yet. We need standards that apply to how the converters can integrate with regular system operation, like starting up, syncing to the grid, etc.,” Singh said. “We are using IEEE Standards 1547 and 2030.8 as a base, interpreting their rules to implement new controls on MV systems. We are trying to merge the two to understand what will apply to this new approach.”
An entirely new grid architecture and operational flexibility could seem far-out for now, but NREL and partners are showing that these options are viable in the near-term and that NREL has the capability to prepare these solutions for real systems. Learn more about how NREL can validate advanced energy systems at scale.
Article courtesy of NREL.
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Oil CEO says blaming the energy industry for the climate crisis ‘like blaming farmers for obesity’
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates —The chief executive of UAE-based energy firm Crescent Petroleum on Tuesday claimed that blaming the oil and gas industry for the climate crisis “is like blaming farmers for obesity.”
His comments come at the mid-point of the U.N.’s biggest and most important annual climate conference, with many at the COP28 talks in Dubai calling for heads of state from nearly 200 countries to agree to a fossil fuel phase out.
The burning of coal, oil and gas is by far the largest contributor to climate change, accounting for more than three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“Blaming the producers of oil and gas for climate change is like blaming farmers for obesity. It’s our societal consumption that is the issue,” Crescent Petroleum CEO Majid Jafar told CNBC’s Dan Murphy on Tuesday.
“Now, we will still need oil and gas throughout the transition and there is no scenario, even the most ambitious scenario, that does not include that.”
Majid Jafar, chief executive officer of Crescent Petroleum Co., right, gives Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, chief executive officer of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC) and president of COP28, center, a scarf in the colours of the United Arab Emirates national flag during the Summit on Methane and Other Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases on day three of the COP28 climate conference at Expo City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Among a flurry of pledges in the first few days of COP28 was a commitment by some 50 oil and gas companies to cut methane emissions from their own operations by 2030.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said that the announcement was “a step in the right direction” for Big Oil and showed that the fossil fuel industry was “finally starting to wake up.” However, he said the promises made “clearly fall short of what is required.”
Asked about Guterres’ comments, Jafar said he believed oil and gas would continue to play a major role in the transition to cleaner energy technologies.
“So, with all respect for that viewpoint, perhaps he should start with the U.N. itself. Maybe he should have traveled here in a wooden boat, with sails, rowing when the wind died down,” he said.
“Maybe he should move the U.N. staff to upstate New York to a forest somewhere where they can grow their own food, without fertilizers. He has to take away all their smartphones, they can’t use email, they can use maybe carrier pigeon for U.N. communications.”
Jafar said he believed it was imperative to produce oil and gas in a “cleaner” way but insisted that countries across the globe will continue to rely on fossil fuel use.
“We’re actually failing on all three legs of the so-called energy trilemma: sustainability, affordability and availability. We have got to keep that in mind,” he said.
Others, including former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, believe that the participation of energy giants should be welcomed at events such as COP28.
The International Energy Agency said late last month that the fossil fuel industry faces a “moment of truth” about their role in the global energy system and the climate crisis.
“With the world suffering the impacts of a worsening climate crisis, continuing with business as usual is neither socially nor environmentally responsible,” the IEA’s Birol said on Nov. 23.
“The industry needs to commit to genuinely helping the world meet its energy needs and climate goals,” he added.
Lucid Motors (LCID) updates its 2024 model year Airs, including lower prices and a RWD Pure
This morning, Lucid Motors shared details of its 2024 model year Air sedans, which are available for sale starting today. While the updates are minimal, Lucid is offering more customization options across its flagship EV, three of which (should) see lower pricing… some at the cost of some performance.
It’s been an up and down year for American automaker Lucid Motors ($LCID), which introduced some of the more exciting and innovative EV tech in the market, but is still working to find its larger audience of paying customers as a luxury brand.
The automaker’s Q3 report showed that operating losses continued to widen ahead of it pulling its first demand lever – a referral program that rewards both current owners and new Air customers. November in particular, was an exciting month for Lucid however, as it officially launched its second model – Gravity – an SUV with the makings to be a hit in the US.
With Gravity slotted to begin production in late 2024, Lucid’s flagship Air sedan will remain its lone bread winner for now. With hopes of boosted sedan sales next year, the automaker is expanding its configurator and offering its most affordable Air models to date.
2024 Lucid Air sedans are now available
Per Lucid Motors, the 2024 model year Airs have arrived, offering customers more configurations and flexibility when building their sedan – especially the lower end Pure and Touring versions. Some previous versions of the Air have been nixed, while the existing trims adopt some of their best features as standard or available add-ons. Per Lucid CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson:
This transforms the flexibility and choice for our customers while highlighting Lucid’s commitment to continuous improvement of the world’s most advanced and dynamic electric vehicles. By listening to owners and prospective customers, I’m delighted that we can now provide such compelling choices. For example, it’s now possible to order an Air Pure with massaging seats or even an Air Grand Touring with a metal roof.
First things first, let’s start with the Air Pure. As we reported in back in early October, Lucid has added a RWD version of the Air Pure priced at $77,400 – its most affordable option to date. Beginning with the 2024 model year Airs however, the Pure will come in RWD only. Here’s how the performance specs stack up side-by-side between the 2023 AWD Pure and the 2024 RWD version:
|Air Pure||2023 AWD||2024 RWD|
|Max Power||480 hp||430 hp|
|0-60 mph||3.8 seconds||4.5 seconds|
|410 miles||419 miles|
Future customers can also choose to upgrade their Air Pure or Touring with a new Comfort & Convenience package that features the following:
- Heated steering wheel
- Heated rear seats
- Soft-close doors
- Four-zone climate control
- Power rear window sunshades
These features come in the Pure package, but the Air Touring package comes with the upgrades above, plus a power frunk and heated precision wipers. Speaking of the 2024 Air Touring, Lucid added some standard and available upgrades to that sedan as well.
With the AWD version of the Air Pure on its way out, the Pure Touring sits as Lucid’s most affordable all-wheel option and at a better price than its 2023 predecessor to boot. Here’s how the two models compare:
|Air Touring||2023 AWD||2024 AWD|
|Max Power||620 hp||620 hp|
|0-60 mph||3.4 seconds||3.4 seconds|
|425 miles||411 miles|
While we’re sure the $10,000 price cut it welcomed news, the 14 mile drop in range is surprising. Lucid cites an updated EPA range testing protocol as a reasoning for the drop, but 411 miles is still more range than nearly all other EVs on the market.
Lucid says the 2024 Air Touring now comes with 19″ aero wheels, PurLuxe leather-free upholstery, and 12-way power front seats standard, plus several available add-ons like Fathom Blue exterior paint and premium natural grain or Nappa full-grain leather.
Similar to the end of AWD Air Pure production, Lucid announced it will move into 2024 without the Performance version of the Grand Touring. Instead, the automaker has updated the powertrain and thermal performance of the standard Air Grand Touring, which appears to remain a work in progress.
While we know the 2024 Grand Touring’s horsepower and 0-60 speed will remain unchanged, specs like its battery capacity and EPA range estimate are not being shared yet. We also don’t know what this one will cost, although Lucid says it will arrive at a lower price. For perspective, the 2023 Air Grand Touring starts at $125,600 before a $10,000 Air credit from Lucid. The automaker says those missing details will be shared in early 2024.
We do know the Grand Touring will now come with a body-colored aluminum roof as a standard feature, with the glass canopy as an available upgrade. It also comes standard with the same features as the Touring alongside the same available add-ons.
Last but not least, there appear to be no changes to the tri-motor Air Sapphire, which launched in Q3 as a 2024 model anyways. The 2024 Air models (excluding Grand Touring) are available to configure now on Lucid’s website.
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The first fast chargers in GM and Pilot Flying J’s huge coast-to-coast network are open
The first of 500 charging stations at Pilot Flying J rest stops are now open. General Motors announced the new partnership with Pilot Travel Centers and fast charging network EVgo last year, and today the companies announced that 17 charging stations are up and running across 13 states after a soft launch, which started in September.
Plans are underway to install 25 more, offering 100 charging stalls in total, by the end of the year. The broader plan is to install at least 2,000 charging stations over the next few years, with a target of 200 being open by 2024. The charging stations, which will be managed by EVgo, will be at about 500 Pilot Flying J truck stops.
Other perks for EV drivers include onsite assistance, Plug and Charge compatibility, pull-through charging stalls for towing, lots of lighting, and canopies to protect drivers from the elements. In addition, you’ll get all the standard amenities offered at a Flying J, such as food, restroom access, and free Wi-Fi.
Drivers can find available charging locations via GM’s vehicle brand apps, Pilot’s myRewards Plus app, the EVgo app, PlugShare, and other apps for EV drivers. The myRewards Plus app lets EV drivers get discounts on food, drinks, and merchandise. Starting in the spring of next year, GM vehicle owners will be able to reserve a charger ahead of time and get special discounts on charging.
The chargers will be co-branded “Pilot Flying J” and “Ultium Charge 360. From the looks of the press photos (shown above), the stations will sport a GM logo as well, which makes them one of few in the US to do so apart from Tesla.
EVgo also recently announced a new deal with rental car company Hertz that offers drivers renting an electric car from any Hertz location in the US with discounts on charging for a year, with no subscription or session fees. EVgo is also following in Tesla’s footsteps and building prefabricated models for its charging sites, with the aim of cutting installation time in half and saving around 15% in construction costs.
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