U.S.-based blockchain clean energy platform partners with South Korean city

Swytch

Austin-based Swytch is a blockchain platform that tracks, verifies and rewards those reducing the global carbon footprint. An Open “Oracle” at the heart of the system acts as a distributed authority, awarding Swytch tokens to people, companies and organizations that make a meaningful and measurable difference in reducing emissions. In what could be a model for much of the rest of the world, the platform recently formed a partnership with Chuncheon, the capital of Gangwon Province in South Korea, to drive economic and environmental sustainability and to reduce carbon emissions in the city.

Under the partnership, the participating organizations have agreed to jointly pursue sustainable alternatives to traditional energy sources through the development and adoption of solar energy and the implementation of the Swytch network. Attendees of the meeting included Lee Jae-Soo, the mayor of Chuncheon, Brock Pierce, chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation and a representative from the United Nations Future Forum.

“This partnership aims to address energy shortages while incentivizing infrastructure development in a city that is ready to decrease its dependence on fossil fuels,” said Youngsook Park, vice president of business development of Swytch in South Korea. “Swytch enables renewable energy investments to shift to areas that will have the biggest impact on carbon reduction, creating a more fluid energy market.”

RELATED: EnSync Energy jumps into residential solar+storage, includes ‘peer-to-peer’ energy exchange

Swytch leverages smart meter and blockchain technology to reward the companies and people who reduce carbon emissions the most. At the core of the Swytch solution is an open platform that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine how much carbon is being displaced and therefore how many Swytch tokens to award.

“There is no doubt that growing our renewable energy dependence is a positive action,” said Lee Jae-Soo, mayor of Chuncheon. “We look forward to this partnership that will decrease our carbon footprint and increase sustainable energy.”

“As the Swytch platform evolves and we continue improving our models for predicting and valuing the effectiveness of different energy assets and sustainability programs, this partnership in Korea will be invaluable to us,” said Evan Caron, co-founder and managing director of Swytch. “We look forward to driving collaboration and innovation in Chuncheon.”

Several other cities in South Korea have already developed partnerships with Swytch and additional agreements in Asia, Europe and the Caribbean are under discussion.

— Solar Builder magazine

Shave and a rate cut: How solar + storage solutions are shaving peaks, saving big bucks

shave and a rate cut

Shaving the peaks off commercial and industrial (C&I) electric bills is the top revenue stream for energy storage systems, and given the trend in increasing utility charges for time-of-use consumption, peak shaving can pay for a system in as little as three years, system providers say.

Just how high the peaks need to be in order to justify the investment in an energy storage system varies with geography and jurisdiction, but in general, demand charges of $15 to $20/kW or more are clear candidates, says John Merritt, the director of applications engineering at Ideal Power.

“The vast majority of converters we sold for storage systems in the past year went to California, with eight out of 10 used in applications for peak shaving,” Merritt says. “With the California incentives and the federal tax break, C&I customers can get a payback in as little as three years and in other cases in four or five years.”

A $15/kW demand charge threshold for economic feasibility also necessitates a 50-kW monthly usage level within the peak charge range, suggests Ellen Howe, VP of marketing and corporate development at JLM Energy, based in Rocklin, Calif. Her colleague, Nate Newsom, VP of enterprise sales, says, “Commercial entities that spend 3 percent or more of their monthly budget on electricity and/or experience 40 percent to 50 percent [higher than normal] demand charges typically are a good fit for energy storage.”

The C&I market is virtually untapped

Analyzing the C&I market for energy storage usefulness, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., started with the assumption that demand charges of $15/kW or higher typically result in favorable economics for energy storage projects. Then, counting rooftops, NREL determined that “Of the nearly 18 million commercial utility customers in the United States, almost 5 million of them are exposed to, or could be exposed to demand charges of $15/kW or higher that would indicate cost-effective opportunities for energy storage.”

While not every potential C&I customer will bite the bullet for a stand-alone energy storage system, aggregation through community solar projects, or virtual power plants (VPP), is increasingly an opportunity.

Tesla is among the storage providers that is now active in community solar, with a high-profile October rollout of its commercial-scale Powerpack system at Puerto Rico’s Hospital del Niño, a children’s hospital in San Juan. As of April, Tesla had provided commercial Powerpacks and residential-scale Powerwalls to over 600 locations, with the count rising daily. The company has been quoted stating a goal of providing up to 40 percent of the island’s power storage needs via community solar system build-outs.

One new provider of VPP services is solar converter maker SolarEdge Technologies, which in May announced a solution for grid services and virtual power plants, thanks to its recent acquisition of Gamatronic Electronic Industries. The solution includes grid services of aggregative control and data reporting that enable the pooling of PV and storage in the cloud for the creation of VPPs.

demand charge example

Fig 1. Example of the steep savings achieved just through shaving peak demand.

Storage + trackers (plus pumps, plus…)

A relatively new storage configuration for C&I customers is the use of storage with solar trackers, like the 1.1-MW project at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. This project will use the NEXTracker NX Flow integrated solar-plus-storage system, in combination with an Ideal Power SunDial Plus converter and a Vanadium flow battery. The project is NEXTracker’s first large-scale installation of the NX Flow solution.

Another budding C&I application for storage is with water authorities, which can typically generate energy from solar for less than it costs to pump water uphill for a discharge to a generator turbine. The San Diego County Water Authority, for example, won $1 million from the California Public Utilities Commission to install intelligent energy storage that will tap the energy from solar panels already installed at the SDWA’s Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant.

The SDWA energy storage project, being operated by Santa Clara-based ENGIE, is expected to save an estimated $100,000 per year by storing low-cost power for later use during high-demand periods for peak shaving. The storage will help the plant cope with its highest energy use period, during peak afternoon hours. ENGIE acquired majority control of energy storage management software leader Green Charge in 2016.

RELATED: Solar + Sharing: Connect groups of homeowners, renters via one solar + storage network 

The backbone of storage: data crunching

It is tricky enough to coordinate a community solar or VPP operation, providing power on demand to participants and storing the rest until the utility calls for help. But knowing precisely what times, and advising customers as to when it is most optimal to use grid energy, or substitute with storage, is another matter, thanks to U.S. utility rate mayhem.

NREL notes that “There are almost 3,500 electricity providers in the United States, and each one has their own set of tariff sheets, rate structures and pathways for compensating non-utility-owned energy generation.” Add a dynamic dimension of rate evolution arising from rate cases, and it becomes a bit difficult to keep up with when it is most economic to use how much power.

Here the data crunchers enter the fray. Stem, for example, recently launched its Athena analysis product, which uses artificial intelligence to learn, predict and optimize energy in real time. Athena collects data at a rate of 400 megabytes per minute to continually fine-tune its algorithms. The system also has learned from operating systems for over 5 million hours, from processing nearly 200 million data intervals and from running over 35 million project simulations. As a result, the system decides and tells the battery when to store and to discharge power, responds to demand response opportunities and methodically shaves peak utility rates.

Stem has working relationships with eight utilities thus far and expects that number to grow significantly as the company helps shave peak demand, which is costly on both sides of the transformer. Stem has been dispatching batteries into California’s wholesale energy markets where it responded to more than 600 calls from state grid operator CAISO last year, according to the company.

On top of new legislative challenges, the industry has faced high and growing customer acquisition costs over the past few years. According to GTM Research, customer acquisition costs on average now represent a disproportionate 17 percent of the total system cost. This is where a new service from Urjanet, a global leader in utility data aggregation, comes into play. Its new Utility Data for Solar, a data-as-a-service solution that provides on-demand access to residential and commercial energy usage, cost and location data from more than 900 electric utilities in over 15 countries. Urjanet Utility Data for Solar enables a more cost-effective, customized approach to selling solar systems that allows vendors to effectively focus on the needs, requirements and situation of each residential or commercial buyer.

map of demand charges

Fig 2. Here’s where the harshest demand charges are across the U.S., courtesy of NREL.

Storage as a service emerges

When solar leasing became popular, the common knowledge about actual savings from such arrangements was about 15 percent of a residential utility bill, if that. With C&I customers, the savings opportunities are as high as the sky or at least whatever the utility bill looks like pre-storage.

JLM Energy is one of the latest energy storage solution providers that offers financing for energy storage customers through a $25 million project financing fund. The company uses a lease structure to achieve shared savings on a monthly basis for 20 years, with no upfront cost. JLM owns, maintains and guarantees system performance.

Stem has long been financing storage solutions, and now has a $500 million investment pool from which it can draw to finance a project, thanks to a host of private sector investors, including the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Wall Street may not have climbed onto the PV wagon when the industry began to mature, but the storage peak-shaving proposition apparently seems as clear and understandable to such investors as the bottom line of the utility bill.

Charles W. Thurston is a freelance writer covering solar energy from Northern California.

— Solar Builder magazine

From small to large-scale solar + storage: Delta debuts Battery Energy Storage Skid, turnkey residential solution

Intersolar 2018 coverage (101)

Delta debuted its Battery Energy Storage Skid (BESS) Solution for industrial and commercial applications, as well as upgrades to its residential energy product portfolio at Intersolar North America 2018. Delta’s pre-engineered BESS is a fully integrated battery storage system with PCS scalable from 125 kW to 500 kW, energy storage up to 2 MWh, and capable of adapting to the various energy, power and performance requirements of commercial energy users, including peak shaving, optimized load management, self-consumption and optimization of renewable energy sources. For the residential sector, Delta’s energy storage solution brings together the company’s leading E-series inverters along with top-of-the-line batteries to create an all-in-one turnkey solution that can be installed seamlessly in as few as 15 minutes.

“The shift to greater reliance on renewable energy, in combination with growing applications for battery power and microgrid-compatible solutions, has made power consumption more complex and dynamic than ever,” said M.S. Huang, president of Delta Electronics (Americas). “It’s critical that energy users have the infrastructure in place to adapt to long-term trends, and fluctuating daily energy demands, easily and quickly. Our BESS helps to fulfill this need for the industrial and commercial sectors, providing customers with an end-to-end solution, while our residential products continue to empower homeowners to take control of their energy consumption.”

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Battery Energy Storage Skid Solution

Flexible in its design and able to scale up to a capacity of PCS 500kW/ESS 2MWh, Delta’s BESS provides an ideal solution for various power, capacity and cycle life needs. Developed for outdoor applications, the system is rugged and durable, with a compact and modular skid-mounted design based on industry standards for cabinet solutions. The format ensures that this investment is protected against harsh environmental conditions and continues to operate at maximum performance even in extreme temperatures.

The solution offers a variety of application advantages for users, including optimization of self-consumption from renewable and combined heat and power (CHP) systems. With Delta’s BESS, users can also capitalize on a range of grid services, including frequency regulation, renewables smoothing and power quality improvement, as well as facilitate demand charge management and time-of-use optimization. For those integrating electric vehicle (EV) charging stations into their facilities, Delta’s BESS can also provide charge management. Additionally, the solution can serve as a backup power supply, ensuring continuous operation in the event of grid power outages.

The BESS system consists of three main components: (1) Delta’s battery inverter unit (PCS – power conditioning system); (2) the Delta-BESS-DC solution, which includes its battery modules, battery management system, switchgear and active cooling in one unit; and (3) an AC panel to recombine the AC output of multiple inverters. All components are factory-assembled and tested, reducing installation time and costs normally associated with field assembly.

Residential Energy Storage

Using Delta’s residential energy storage system, homeowners can easily monitor and manage their energy output and consumption, enhancing the value of energy production from PV panels, reducing overall energy costs and even creating savings. The solution is composed of battery technology; and Delta’s E-series hybrid inverters, capable of power backup applications, AC- and DC-coupled energy storage, and microgrid or dark start operations. Designed with ease-of-use in mind, Delta’s home energy solution comes equipped with 15 minute installation through mobile app, One Click service through mobile devices, cloud-based monitoring, auto grid selection, auto PV input detection and “Over-The-Air” software upgrades.

For more info on the newest inverters on the market download our free 2018 Inverter Buyer’s Guide

— Solar Builder magazine

EnerSys shows complete line of battery, stand by power options for solar installs at Intersolar

 

enersys batteries

EnerSys featured a broad selection of standby power solutions for renewable energy applications at the Intersolar North America exhibition in San Francisco, July 10-12. EnerSys manufactures a range of batteries for standby power and energy storage solutions for applications that range from small, off-grid solar energy operations to large-scale commercial solar energy facilities. Batteries are available in a variety of types, including Thin Plate Pure Lead (TPPL), long-life lead calcium, tubular flooded and gel, nickel cadmium and lithium ion.

In addition to batteries, the exhibit also featured OptiGrid Stored Energy Solutions management software for renewable integration and Behind the Meter (BTM) operation, and thermally managed VaultFlex outdoor enclosures, which feature technology to ensure that the battery operates under optimum temperatures.

RELATED: Battery chemistry matters: What to know before installing solar + storage systems

“More than a century of experience has refined the design and manufacturing of EnerSys batteries to meet the needs of solar energy facilities,” said Jay Frankhouser, director, reserve power business development and marketing at EnerSys. “Our broad portfolio of standby power solutions offers high cycling performance and reliability while helping to minimize Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).”

Among the batteries featured were Genesis EP TPPL batteries, designed to provide power density with a smaller footprint; PowerSafe SBS TPPL batteries in 2-volt and 12-volt formats to provide flexibility in system design and sizing; and lithium ion battery modules.
The exhibit also featured a solar PV panel with energy storage from a Genesis EP 200 batteries housed in a VaultFlex enclosure.

— Solar Builder magazine

SEPA explores the massive solar, storage opportunity in Massachusetts in new report

massachusetts solar regulation

The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and ScottMadden released their latest report in SEPA’s 51st State Perspective series: “Massachusetts: A Great Clean Energy Story – DERs and the Next Chapter,” which explores the potential for Massachusetts to deploy significantly more clean energy.

Massachusetts has been a long leader in the deployment of clean energy and has demonstrated a strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gases. The Commonwealth’s approach to integrating clean energy has included a combination of policies such as renewable portfolio standards, capacity and generation targets for specific technologies, an energy efficiency resource standard, as well as solar and other incentive programs. Additionally state policy makers have set targets for solar PV, storage, and electric vehicles, resulting in high penetrations of renewables. The SEPA-ScottMadden report summarizes the legislative and regulatory actions that are contributing to further integration of distributed energy resources (DERs) as customers adopt them.

Legislative and other initiatives driving energy market transformation in the state include:

• Policies such as the Green Communities Act of 2008 and the Energy Efficiency Resources Standard, which have contributed to Massachusetts’ position as the leading state in energy efficiency for several consecutive years
• Revenue decoupling in 2008 to promote energy efficiency investments
• Net metering since 1982 and the increase of caps (% capacity in MW) over the years
• The ability for utilities to earn a return on energy efficiency investments

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Compared to other states such as California, Illinois and New York, the Commonwealth’s approach to advancing DERs has been far less aggressive. These states have placed an emphasis on the value that DERs can provide to the distribution grid that goes beyond their renewable characteristics through various proceedings and pilots to more fully integrate and optimize DERs. Whereas Massachusetts’ focus has been on a variety of policies to advance clean energy and reduction of GHG, which has resulted in high penetrations of renewable energy resources, but it has not focused on upgrading infrastructure, deploying AMI, or optimizing DERs in the way that other states have.

While the Commonwealth’s progress to date on advancing clean energy, increasing economic development, and reducing impacts of GHG emissions is quite impressive, questions remain about whether recent legislative and regulatory initiatives will enable innovation to support further DER deployment. The lack of AMI and related customer-side infrastructure, as well as limited rate options, make further DER deployment and integration uncertain.

Co-author Sharon Thomas, Senior Analyst at the Smart Electric Power Alliance, added, “Massachusetts’ nation-leading role in energy efficiency is very impressive. However, demand-side resources are not prominently prioritized in current regulatory and legislative actions. We will have to wait and see if the Commonwealth’s current business models and structures will support continued growth.

“The focus in Massachusetts has been on the integration of clean energy and the reduction of GHG, which has resulted in high penetrations of renewables. To date, however, the same focus has not been placed on upgrading physical infrastructure (e.g., AMI) and changing the utility business model to drive integration and optimization of DERs,” adds Cristin Lyons, partner and energy practice leader at ScottMadden.

— Solar Builder magazine