RMI and NREL Launch Tools to Boost Renewable Energy Analysis and Storage Solutions

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RMI and NREL unveil new tools to simplify complex energy analysis and improve energy storage

RMI, founded as Rocky Mountain Institute, and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced the launch of innovative, publicly available tools aimed at advancing renewable energy development. These tools were launched as part of RMI’s Energy Transition Academy (ETA), a global leadership and workforce development platform that is designed to empower and equip energy leaders with essential skills including modeling power systems using NREL’s System Advisor Model (SAM). Additionally, the organizations unveiled a comprehensive “how-to” guide on operating and maintaining battery energy storage systems (BESS).

The ETA works to ensure leaders are well-informed and ready to act by providing access to curated information, tools, peer-to-peer problem-solving, skills training, and mentorship networks to advance energy transition priorities in their companies, countries, and communities. The ETA collaborates with regional partners such as the Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation (CARILEC) and the Lagos Energy Academy, as well as international partners such as NREL to design training opportunities and resources for energy professionals that respond to local training needs. Through courses like SAM and the BESS “how-to” guide, the ETA empowers clean energy professionals to strategically plan and execute initiatives that align with their clean power goals.

The System Advisor Model (SAM) is a user-friendly techno-economic computer model designed to calculate the performance and financial metrics of renewable energy projects. This free tool aids decision makers in analyzing the cost, performance, and financing aspects of grid-connected solar, wind, or geothermal power projects of any scale. SAM’s versatility extends to manufacturers, engineering and consulting firms, research and development entities, utilities, developers, venture capital firms, and international organizations, enabling end-to-end analysis for informed decision-making.

This was an exciting opportunity to collaborate with RMI and provide training on SAM, one of NREL’s most widely used tools, as well as share NREL’s expertise on battery storage technologies and best practices,” said Sean Esterly, NREL project manager. “Through this partnership with RMI’s ETA and their fellowship program we will be able to reach stakeholders who will immediately benefit from these resources. Having these resources publicly available will also have a long-lasting impact.

SAM’s advanced capabilities allow users to swiftly assess the impact of variations in technology parameters, finance options, and performance across residential, building, and utility-scale markets. With features like uncertainty and sensitivity analysis and advanced scripting capabilities, SAM has become an invaluable tool for researchers and software programmers alike, promoting transparency and collaboration in the field.

Recognizing the critical role of energy storage in the transition to a low-carbon economy, the BESS guide addresses current barriers hindering the connection of energy storage systems to distribution grids. By offering insights into commercially available battery technologies, use cases for energy storage, and best practices for operation and maintenance, the guide aims to facilitate the integration of battery energy storage systems into the evolving power landscape.

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The SAM course and BESS how-to-guide were developed in response to high demand from utilities we work with in the Caribbean and Nigeria. We heard loud and clear from ETA Global Fellowship Program participants that more tools to model and develop business cases for solar plus battery storage systems are critical to advancing utility-enabled clean energy,” says Justin Locke, managing director for RMI’s Global South Program.

As the demand for solar, wind, and geothermal energy continues to surge, the market is expected to grow by more than 10 percent annually for the next two decades. With tutorials on SAM and BESS, the global energy community is equipped to analyze the potential of renewable technologies, making well-informed decisions that contribute to sustainable and efficient energy solutions.