The Studio 14 Deeder at Mesa del Sol - A Full-Scale Power Distribution Testbed

For a number of well-known reasons, it is necessary to increase the fraction of electrical energy provided by renewable energy resources. To cope with the intermittency of renewables, as well as with other emerging pressures on the electricity grid, including overloading and disruptions caused by weather events, the concept of 'smart grid' has received much attention. The 'smart grid', consisting of new power generation devices coupled with storage devices and controls, is primarily housed within the distribution grid, the part of the grid that is downstream of distribution substation.

Over the last several years, 'systems' faculty at CEET, together with their research sponsors and partners, have worked to assemble a faciity which is unique in the country, for the purpose of conducting applied research in the area of distributed energy. The host infrastructure is a power distribution feeder, in this case the Studio 14 feeder located at Mesa del Sol, a growing 'greenfield' sustainable community, as illustrated in Fig. 3.5.3. Studio 14 hosts a number of subsystems likely to be key components of a future 'smart grid'.

These include:

  • A utility-scale PV / battery system, operated by Public Service Company of New Mexico;
  • A building-scale PV / battery system, operated by Sandia National Laboratories and UNM;
  • A building-scale PV / battery system, operated by Fraunhofer CSE;
  • A CERTS microgrid hosting a variety of generation and storage technologies, operated by Japan's New
  • Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, to be transfered to UNM in 2014;
  • A large ice storage / electric chiller system, operated by Albuquerque Studios.

power distro

Schematic of the Mesa del Sol power distribution testbed.

This infrastructure, costing tens of $M, can be used for a variety of purposes, including research on systems controls and algorithms, training of future distribution systems designers and operators; testing of new individual components within an operating smart grid. The unique nature of the system is being used as a magnet to attract research funding to CEET, especially large grants that would fulfill the current thrust to diversify the Center's research portfolio.