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NSERC Project Updates

April 2017

The once-empty racks in the solar array at the Northeast Solar Energy Research Center (NSERC), located at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, are now filled with functional solar modules.  That’s because a planned expansion of NSERC was recently finished, completing its core section and bringing the total peak capacity of the facility to 907 kilowatts (kW) of renewable solar energy that will be used on the Brookhaven Lab campus. Full story...

September 2013

Contracts have been placed and construction of the first 518kW portion of the NSERC solar array was initiated in August 2013 with the installation of the piles. This first portion will be in Area 1 and will enable field testing of utility-scale inverters and grid level storage systems, as well as microgrid demonstrations. This will also provide a source of sustainable energy to BNL for its use in operating the site. The first portion of the array is expected to be completed by the end of 2013. The remaining sections of the array will be completed as funding becomes available.

March 2012

Development of the NSERC solar array is moving forward with the selection of Blue Oak Energy as the Architect/Engineering firm to design the array.  Based on the results of the March 2011 workshop, a design that meets the research requirements has been completed.  The full array will be approximately 1MW in size and will include several special features that will enable a wide range of research capabilities, including the following: 

  • Field testing of new technologies under actual northeastern weather conditions, including solar modules and inverters
  • Testing of innovative new inverter technologies from micro- to utility scale
  • Comparison testing of solar technologies mounted on trackers versus fixed tilt systems
  • Reliability and degradation studies of solar technologies
  • Studies on grid-level storage systems to help mitigate the impacts of variability
  • Environmental and sustainability studies
  • Microgrid demonstrations

The solar research array will have the following specifications:

  • Power output: approximately 1MW-peak Design voltage: 1,000V-dc
  • Solar modules: Suniva mono-crystalline silicon modules
  • Inverters: Aurora Power One modular inverters (67kW modules with separate MPPT)

The array will be comprised of three separate sections with the following research capabilities:

  • Area 1: 907kW-dc for testing utility-scale inverters, storage systems and microgrid demonstrations
  • Area 2: 65kW-dc for testing solar modules mounted on single axis trackers
  • Area 3: ~150kW-dc empty rack space for testing new solar modules and mirco/string level inverter topologies

March 2011

On March 8-9, 2011 BNL held a technical workshop to obtain input from solar industry experts for the development of a new Northeast Solar Energy Research Center (NSERC) here on the BNL campus. The NSERC would serve as a solar energy user facility that would supplement and build upon the research already planned using data from the Long Island Solar Farm (LISF) by offering research and field testing capabilities under actual northeastern weather conditions. The purpose of this workshop was to obtain input on the need for such a facility here in the northeast, as well as to define the parameters for this center that would facilitate the development and deployment of advanced solar energy systems and help to address the associated challenges with their grid integration.

BNL presented its preliminary plans to the workshop participants, which include the construction of a dedicated solar photovoltaic research array for field studies on new solar PV technologies under actual northeastern weather conditions, including solar panels, power inverters, energy storage devices, and other solar power generation technologies. The dedicated solar energy research array is expected to be up to 1 megawatt in size with all power generated fed directly into the BNL electrical distribution system. This clean power would offset BNL’s electricity usage and help us meet the energy sustainability goals set for the Laboratory.

The NSERC would also include laboratory space with specialized solar energy test equipment for standardized testing of solar technologies in a laboratory setting for independent performance tests, degradation studies, and other related activities.

The workshop was attended by representatives from eleven different organizations with recognized expertise in solar energy, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Electric Power Research Institute, American Superconductor, BP Solar, Long Island Power Authority, New York Power Authority, Solar Electric Power Association and GE Global Research. There was unanimous agreement by all participants that this center is much needed and would be a valuable asset to support the adoption and deployment of large-scale solar energy plants in the Northeastern U.S. The conclusion from this workshop was that plans should move forward to develop this facility. A great deal of valuable input was received and will now be used to develop a prospectus and preliminary design for the NSERC.

Workshop Presentations