Siemens Industry and The University of New Mexico have signed an agreement to begin a collaboration on the integration of renewable energy systems and microgrids.

The agreement, signed Sept. 14, begins a collaboration centered around the UNM-owned microgrid, located next to the UNM Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media building at Mesa Del Sol in Albuquerque. The microgrid assets include facilities such as a cooling tower, thermal storage tank, battery energy storage system, fuel cell, photovoltaic system and a natural gas generator.

The UNM School of Engineering microgrid was built almost a decade ago in conjunction with Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), a consortium working in partnership with UNM, Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM). The facility was established to research the interface between buildings, distributed power generation and the power grid, as well as to test new smart-grid technologies. NEDO created the microgrid, a section of the power grid that can produce and store its own power, through a mix of local renewable and fossil-energy sources. The microgrid is designed to be able to operate independently of the main power grid in an islanded mode.

Siemens, a global innovator focusing on digitalization and automation for the process and manufacturing industries, is a leader in power generation and distribution, intelligent infrastructure and distributed-energy systems. For more than 100 years, the company has developed technologies that support multiple American industries, including manufacturing, energy, healthcare and infrastructure.

UNM is part of a statewide consortium that received a 5-year, $20 million grant in 2018 to modernize the electrical grid. The award from the National Science Foundation Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) for the New Mexico SMART Grid Center supports an integrated research and education program for the development of distribution feeder microgrids.

The NM SMART Grid Center pursues the next generation of electric power production and delivery through creation of a SMART electric grid (one that is sustainable, modular, adaptive, resilient, and transactive). The research program seeks to transform the existing electricity distribution feeders into interconnected microgrids using multiple testbeds across New Mexico, including the UNM microgrid. The effort includes researchers from UNM, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Santa Fe Community College, Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Microgrid Systems Laboratory. Industry partners include Siemens, PNM, the Electric Power Research Institute, Oracle and El Paso Electric.

It is anticipated that Siemens will replace the existing controllers on the microgrid with Siemens controllers in the first phase of the collaboration. The microgrid will generate data that will be useful to Siemens Industries in analyzing its operation in real-world conditions.

UNM’s microgrid is a unique facility in the U.S. that facilitates UNM’s research activities in the areas of power system modernization, renewable energy systems, smart grids and smart cities.