Figuring out how distributed energy systems and
renewable power can be integrated into the grid
requires data-heavy research and experimentation.
But testing on existing city grids simply isn’t an
option. To move the needle on energy capabilities,
the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) built a lab to
support 200 researchers and their big-data trials.
Constructed at the DoE’s National Renewable
Energy Laboratory campus, the Energy Systems
Integration Facility (ESIF) now stakes its claim as
one of the world’s most energy-e;cient labs and
supercomputer data centers. It includes 15 labs, an
o;ce wing and a supercomputer.
From the beginning, the team knew completing
such a large-scale, highly complex project under a
tight and in;exible budget would require a new kind
of thinking. So rather than approach contractors
with project plans, the team gathered requirements
from end users and presented only a list of specs.
From there, bidders presented how much scope
they could deliver within the budget.
“We did it backwards. We didn’t come in with a set
preliminary design,” says Drew Detamore, PhD, proj-
ect director of ESIF. “Instead we said, ‘Here’s the func-
tion, you tell us how to optimize it within the budget.’”
To accommodate the scope additions, the team
;exed its agility, sometimes beginning construction
on one project phase before designs for the next one
had been ;nalized.
;e ESIF project team didn’t just come in ahead
of schedule, under budget and exceeding its stated
scope—it also created an ultra-green o;ce wing
that uses nearly 75 percent less energy than other
Powering the Future
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