SunSpec Alliance Selected to Build Electrification Testbed at UC San Diego

Global consortium provides tooling and technology for $39M National Science Foundation project to study interaction of microgrids, Distributed Energy Resources, and electric vehicles

SAN JOSE, Calif., February 11, 2021 The SunSpec Alliance announced that the organization and SunSpec ecosystem partners have received a major sub-award to build and operate a network-based Distributed Energy Resource (DER) platform to empower DERConnect: an electrification testbed being established on the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) campus and funded by the National Science Foundation. This $39 million project will enable researchers to pursue the vision of an all-electric society, powered by renewable energy sources, where grids are self-forming, buildings self-optimized, and transportation is clean, quiet, and responsive to human needs.

The objective of DERConnect is to address the national need for large-scale DER testing capabilities to validate future technologies for autonomous energy grids in real-world scenarios. By replicating California’s electric grid on the UC San Diego campus, university research teams, national labs, industry participants, utility companies and Independent System Operators will be able to simulate the operation of DER equipment and electrical loads in real energy systems, through realistic test scenarios and on a realistic scale.  

Utilizing products from SunSpec members that are certified to SunSpec specifications for system interoperability, DERConnect will incorporate DER systems with solar PV, energy storage, electric vehicles, building-based electrical loads, and nano-/microgrid forming technologies that provide resilient, autonomous operation. The electrification testbed will be digitally monitored and controlled using high-speed networks and SunSpec SVP test software that can be exercised by researchers around the globe. Research topics of special interest include cybersecurity for digital grid infrastructure, human interaction with smart DER devices, grid reliability, electric vehicle charging optimization, and strategies for enhancing public safety. 

DERConnect will be the first integrated platform in the United States to offer the scale needed to evaluate and validate the implementation of DER technologies, protocols, and standards in a wide range of use cases. As a milestone in the development of renewable energy, DERConnect will allow researchers to expand knowledge of microgrid concepts, allowing society to leverage Distributed Energy Resources for clean energy production, secure grid operation, and increased resiliency of our energy infrastructure,” said Dr. Jan Kleissl, principal investigator of the DERConnect project and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC San Diego.

DERConnect also signifies an expansion into the electric vehicle and microgrid markets for the SunSpec Alliance and its ecosystem of member companies. Leveraging 2,500 DER agents on a campus microgrid that includes 300 charging stations for electric vehicles, SunSpec Certified™ products will allow for seamless and secure communication between systems. SunSpec and its 125 member organizations will also serve as a principal technology transfer conduit from DERConnect to the global energy industry. 

About the SunSpec Alliance

SunSpec Alliance is the information standards and certification organization for the Distributed Energy Resource (DER) industry. SunSpec communication standards address operational requirements of solar and energy storage on the smart grid to reduce cost, promote technology innovation, and accelerate industry growth. More than 110 organizations are members of the SunSpec Alliance, including global leaders from Asia, Europe, and North America.  To learn more, visit

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