Renewable Energy and Distributed Systems Integration

Renewable Energy & Distributed Systems Integration

Sandia’s Renewable Energy and Distributed Systems Integration (RDSI) program is helping to develop and validate solutions to the challenges facing the nation’s electricity systems. Our research supports rapid decarbonization while addressing reliability, resilience, and cybersecurity. We are helping design and build the next generation of interconnected systems and microgrids.

To ensure national security, design the grids of the future, ensure resilience and reliability, and solve the most difficult challenges of our future electric needs, RDSI is committed to creating a better world by creating a better grid. See how our team works to achieve this future through our research and development.

Research Areas

RDSI researchers analyze the impact of large-scale deployment of distributed and renewable energy on the grid and help industry incorporate these advances into next-generation operations and software.

Learn more about advanced grid modeling at Sandia.

Physical and cybersecurity technologies applied to power systems developed, evaluated and deployed by RDSI researchers, harden the power system against the threat of attacks.

 Learn more about Sandia’s work in cyber and physical security for the grid.

Testing platforms in the Distributed Energy Technology Laboratory (DETL) evaluate security, interoperability, grid support functionality, and reliability of renewable and distributed energy resources (DER) components.

Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory

In response to increased use of electric vehicles (EVs), RDSI researchers are developing cybersecurity threat and electric grid integration models. These models ensure that widespread installation of smart EV charging infrastructure is both safe and secure.

Learn more about R&D at Sandia for electric vehicles and their supporting infrastructure.

RDSI researchers at Sandia provide technical assistance to support communities’ recovery and resilience. Researchers have worked on improving electric power system design and operation to build resilience against future threats. Other efforts focused on microgrid design, integrating those microgrids into the broader electric grid, and how microgrids foster recovery and resilience.

Learn more about place-based work supported by researchers at Sandia who specialize in renewable energy and distributed systems integration.

RDSI researchers at Sandia develop and evaluate new power electronics architectures and controls for the next-generation of inverters and converters in order to improve the performance and reliability of power conversion for DER aggregations.

Learn more about Sandia’s work in power electronics and power conversion systems.

RDSI contributes to standards that regulate the capabilities, performance, safety, interoperability, cybersecurity and grid support functionality of renewable and distributed energy resources.


  • develop and record widely accepted, consensus-based best practices regarding technical issues and systems involving multiple stakeholders; and
  • ensure common practices and requirements across multiple jurisdictions.

Sandia participates in standards’ development to provide objective, high-quality technical leadership, and consensus-building.

Sandia is involved in the development of standards for integration of renewable energy and distributed systems. These standards include:

  • DER interconnection standards
  • DER test standards
  • DER cybersecurity guides
  • Power system protection and control standards
  • Safety and fire safety standards
  • PV module standards


Sandia staff have leadership roles in many IEEE standards working groups, including but not limited to:

  • All of the IEEE 1547 family of standards, which describe the requirements for interconnecting distributed energy resources to distribution systems and certifying that requirements are met.
  • IEEE P2800 and IEEE P2800.2, which describe the requirements for connecting inverter-based resources to transmission systems and certifying that requirements are met.
  • IEEE P2030.12, on the subject of protection systems for microgrids.

Unintentional Islanding Detection
Since the 1980s, Sandia has led research on islanding detection; the “Sandia Frequency Shift,” used to detect unintentional islanding, is still widely used in industry. Recently, Sandia’s research on unintentional islanding has included experimentally testing hardware and developing new mitigation strategies.

Featured Projects

This project aims to develop a process for designing resilient communities. It uses (1) consequence-based approaches to grid planning and investment, and (2) partnerships with utilities that enable validation of technologies using real-world data. This process improves communities’ resilience by enabling access to distributed, clean water and electricity.

Designing Resilient Communities Project Summary Report

Watch the Designing Resilient Communities Webinar on Youtube

Download a copy of the Designing Resilient Communities Webinar slides (PDF)

Solar Forecasting

Sandia has partnered with the University of Arizona to develop, demonstrate, test and deploy an accessible, extensible, open-source framework that enables evaluations of irradiance, solar power, and net-load forecasts that are impartial, repeatable and auditable. This framework will provide reference data and benchmark forecasts against which forecast skill can be measured over time. The goal is create a user-friendly framework for forecast providers, utilities, balancing authorities or fleet generation operators.

Energy Storage Sizing for Puerto Rico

Sandia, in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is conducting a system-wide study of Puerto Rico’s electric transmission and distribution system to determine optimal size and location for battery storage systems. The purpose of the project is to significantly improve Puerto Rico’s grid resilience and performance during calm weather conditions, expand the system’s capacity fo renewable energy deployment and to also significantly improve grid conditions in the face of other large-scale threats such as cyber-attack and man-made or natural disasters. Researchers will also study the island’s ability to operate as a self-sufficient microgrid with enhanced integration of renewable energy technologies.

Advanced Sensors – MagSense

Due to advancements in grid technology, there is a need for new, innovative ways both to detect abnormalities in electrical components and to protect the grid from catastrophic failure. Researchers at Sandia’s Distributed Energy Technology Laboratory (DETL) are developing and testing a new sensor that will monitor grid components and detect abnormalities and failures.

Threat Model of Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

Use of electric vehicles is increasing. As a result, the need for charging stations is growing. So too is the risk for cyber-attacks through the smart technology-driven components in those vehicles and charging stations. These potential attacks threaten not only the electric grid, but also personal privacy. Researchers at Sandia and other national laboratories, along with industry representatives, have developed a new threat model that will be used to demonstrate this cyber risk, assess existing charging infrastructure, and help stakeholders understand their role in providing grid security and resilience.

Threat Model of Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Fact Sheet (PDF)

A microgrid is a small-scale version of an interconnected electric grid.

Microgrids can locally mange the operation of distributed energy resources, such a photovoltaics (PV), wind, electric vehicles, energy-storage, demand response, and thermal energy systems while connected to larger host grid or as an independent power system. Sandia’s Renewable and Distributed Systems Integration, Energy Storage, and Defense Energy programs are developing technologies and applying microgrid solutions nationwide to supply communities with more resilient power.

Sandia’s research focuses on multiple aspects of microgrids, including:

  • Multi-objective, optimized microgrid design to balance different goals, such as cost and resilience
  • Autonomous operation of microgrids and microgrid assets under dynamic conditions, including faults
  • Long horizon control of microgrids to balance economics with power delivery
  • New microgrid topologies to enable more resilient operation, including power electronic converter-based systems and networked microgrids

Advanced microgrid research at Sandia

Sandia’s Microgrid Design Tool Kit Download

DC Microgrid Project with Emera Energy

Sandia has partnered with Emera Energy (owner of numerous utility companies in North American including the New Mexico Gas Company) to develop and validate technologies that enable the creation of scalable, low-cost, resilient, high-renewable content direct current (DC) microgrids. This allows DC microgrids to become a viable alternative to traditional alternating current (AC) systems to enhance the safety, efficiency and resilience of distributed energy systems. The collaboration features the creation of a self-sustaining microgrid that includes a community center and several KAFB housing units located near the Distributed Energy Technology Lab (DETL). The DC microgrid design consists of a network of DC nodes, co-located with distributed energy resources and energy storage, interconnected through a DC link ring with power flow controlled byconverters at each node. While the microgrid can still be connected to the energy grid serving the Albuquerque area to ensure continuous power, it will be tested as a self-sustaining system, utilizing solar photovoltaics and energy storage. This demonstration will be used to validate design and control strategies evaluated in simulation and hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) methods and to explore cost performance tradeoffs that affect the relative sizing of the storage, converters and other network elements.

St. Mary’s Village/Mountain Village Microgrid Projects

Sandia researchers, partnering with Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, the Alaska Center for Energy and Power and microgrid developer denamics GmbH have collaborated with two remote villages in Alaska to demonstrate the viability of advanced microgrids utilizing renewable wind energy as a power source. The villages currently use microgrids powered by cost prohibitive diesel generators. The project includes the development of open source models for renewable energy-based microgrids and grid bridge systems, which would enable similar systems to be put in place for other rural or islanded communities across the United States.


As more distributed energy resources (DERs) such as solar photovoltaics (PV) are introduced to the electric grid, securing smart inverters at these sites from cyber-attack has become critical for grid protection and resiliency. Researchers at Sandia are developing new Proactive Intrusion Detection and Mitigation System (PIDMS) sensor technology that can sense when inverters are being attacked and also deploy corrective actions to prevent and lessen attacks’ impact.

ENERGISE – Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy

Funded by the DOE Sunshot program, this project will help utility companies better visualize, manage, and protect power systems as they include increasing numbers of distributed energy resources such as wind and solar by creating open-source advanced distribution management system (ADMS) algorithms.

Secure, Scalable Control & Communications

This project analyzes expected availability and response time metrics for distributed solar, develops cyber security architectures, and evaluates promising approaches with hardware in-the-loop experiments.

Rapid Quasi-Static Time Series (QSTS) Simulations

Quasi-static time series (QSTS) is needed to simulate and understand interactions of PV variability and the benefits of smart grid controls. This project will accelerate QSTS simulation capabilities through new and innovative methods for advanced time-series analysis. Sandia has pioneered computationally efficient and scalable QSTS power flow and stochastic analysis techniques to analyze high-penetration of distributed energy resources in distribution feeders.

Inverter Standards

With national and international partners, Sandia leads working groups for multiple collaborations, including the Smart Grid International Research Facility Network (SIRFN) within the International Smart Grid Action Network (ISGAN); IEEE 1547; UL 1741; and Smart Grid Interoperable Panel (SGIP).

Summer Ferreira


    Microgrid Design Toolkit

    The Microgrid Design Toolkit (MDT) is a visual design and trade-space optimization capability for microgrid planning. A multi-objective optimization algorithm executes a discrete event Monte-Carlo simulation to characterize performance and reliability of candidate microgrid designs.

      GridPV Toolkit

      A fully-documented set of Matlab functions that can be used to build distribution grid performance models using the open source distribution modeling tool OpenDSS.

      System Validation Platform (SVP)

      The automated system validation platform (SVP) quickly determines the performance of distributed energy resources equipment for a range of interoperable and interconnection functions. This technology has been developed under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the SunSpec Alliance and is used by labs across the globe in the Smart Grid International Research Facility Network (SIRFN) project.

      Sandia Virtual Power Plant (VPP) Platform (PDF)

      This project provides utilities, grid operators, and distributed energy resource aggregators with a greater capacity to provide voltage and frequency regulation and other grid support functions by aggregating distributed energy resources into secure, reliable virtual power plants (VPP). The VPP optimizes distributed energy resource dispatch and real-time control under high uncertainty.

        The Resilient Node Cluster Analysis Tool (ReNCAT)

        ReNCAT is an application used to identify optimal placement of microgrids and other resilience investments within communities. A multi-objective optimization algorithm is used to determine portfolios of microgrids throughout an area that minimize social burden (the relative hardship residents experience to acquire critical services) while also minimizing investment costs.

Sandia’s distributed energy integration research supports a broad set of partners and stakeholders.

Sandia actively seeks collaboration and partnerships with a range of stakeholders, including other national laboratories, universities, electric utilities, industry, federal and state agencies, standards bodies, and international partners. These partnerships produce high quality, high impact results in research and development and enable demonstrations, validation, feasibility planning, resilience, cyber and physical security, protection, controls and more to contribute to a more secure and reliable grid that is increasingly distributed.

More Information

Working with Sandia

Map of RDSI Research Locations (PDF)