IREC recognizes these four states for their clean energy policy decisions in 2018

solar state report card

After a colossal year of energy policy activity across the states, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) calls out some favorite 2018 success stories in its 2019 Clean Energy States Honor Roll, announced today. IREC is a 37-year-old national independent not-for-profit organization that works state by state to increase consumer access to clean renewable energy through fact-based policy leadership, quality workforce development and consumer empowerment.

Most Growth Potential

New Jersey. For creating a community solar pilot program and establishing one of the most aggressive energy storage goals in the country.

New Jersey has a long history of clean energy friendly policies, but the past few years saw a lag in progress, until recently. New Jersey is now poised to be a national leader for both community solar and energy storage development. A newly adopted community solar pilot program incorporates many established program best practices, as articulated in IREC’s Model Rules for Shared Renewable Energy Programs and National Shared Renewables Scorecard, and will expand access to all customers, including those with low and moderate incomes. The state’s new energy storage goal of 600 megawatts of energy storage by 2021 and 2,000 megawatts by 2030 sets a high bar for energy deployment, putting New Jersey alongside other leading states with energy storage targets, such as California, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon.

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Emerging Clean Energy Leader

Michigan. For tackling several core issues integral to realizing the potential of clean distributed energy resources (DERs), such as customer-sited solar, energy storage and wind.

Michigan is quickly emerging as a proactive leader on clean energy issues, as the state addresses several foundational regulatory policies impacting the deployment of clean energy on the grid, namely: interconnection rules, grid modernization and integrated distribution system planning. Tackling these core policies in anticipation of future growth sets a smooth glidepath for the state’s clean energy market to thrive, while also improving the customer experience and reducing costly and time-consuming processes for customers, developers and utilities alike. In addition, these regulatory efforts will help ensure the four cities in Michigan with established 100% renewable energy goals can accomplish these ambitious goals more affordably and efficiently (which benefits all Michiganders).

Most Charged for Storage

Nevada. For being among the first states in the country to formally address connecting distributed energy storage systems to the electric grid.

New regulations explicitly allow for and clarify how distributed energy storage systems will connect to the grid via updated interconnection standards. As DER penetrations grow and new technologies become available, these updated interconnection procedures (which align with IREC’s recommended practices) ensure more efficient and affordable deployment of clean DERs on the grid. In addition, Nevada joined the ranks of the few other states requiring utilities to proactively consider ways to optimize the benefits of DERs on the grid through a more comprehensive distribution system planning process.

Most Improved Transparency

South Carolina. For taking actions to improve utility transparency and reporting, which benefits both customers and developers.

South Carolina has seen considerable clean energy growth over the past few years due to favorable solar policies, but some of its recent growth has stalled due to interconnection backlogs. A November 2018 action by the state’s public service commission requires additional utility reporting measures aimed at improving transparency. This was an important step toward reducing the considerable delays in the interconnection queue in the state, while also preserving a positive path forward for future growth of customer-driven investments in clean energy technologies.

— Solar Builder magazine

This Hawaii housing development to share solar energy via peer-to-peer exchange network

ensync peer to peer energy sharing

EnSync Energy Systems signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Koa’e Workforce Housing, L.P. to include EnSync Smart Home Energy Systems in a new 134-unit housing development. The systems will utilize peer-to-peer energy exchange and smart water heaters to optimize energy efficiency and utilization of solar across the community.

The Koa’e community is the first announced deployment of EnSync’s cool load control capability and the second for its True Peer-to-Peer energy exchange.

The Koa’e housing development will include 516 kW of rooftop solar, 603 kilowatt-hours of energy storage and EnSync Smart Home’s energy communications, command and control platform across the property’s 23 buildings. Each residential unit will have photovoltaics (PV), an EnSync Smart Home system and connection to a DC-Link that networks the home with all of the other residences in the property. The system will integrate energy supply from the PV power generation and energy storage with water heater load management to maximize energy independence of each home and throughout the overall networked community.

This is EnSync Energy’s second multi-family residential property to use the EnSync Smart Home system as its technology foundation, following a 320-unit project announced in the summer of 2018. For additional efficiency, the EnSync Smart Home and DC-Link systems connecting each unit enable peer-to-peer energy exchange. When the unit-level PV system generates more solar energy than the storage or home can utilize, the excess is exported to any unit on the property where demand exceeds supply.

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This peer-to-peer energy exchange capability helps manage the impact of vacancy rates, time of day absences and unit level micro-loading effects in multi-unit properties or communities, facilitating energy efficiency across the network as a whole. For building owners who pay utilities on behalf of tenants and charge tenants a flat rate, the EnSync Smart Home system offers a direct incentive to realize potential savings.

The new Koa’e housing development will be located on the island of Kauai and is EnSync Energy’s first project on the island. Kauai, like the rest of the state of Hawaii, is working through a severe housing shortage, and the Koa’e housing project is an element of the response aimed at addressing that challenge. EnSync Energy is collaborating with its local subsidiary and developer Holu Energy to engineer and design the project and Mark Development, Inc. to construct and install the system.

“The Koa’e project demonstrates how advanced technology can be used to improve the economics for tenants of affordable housing,” said Craig Watase, president of Mark Development, Inc. “We are pleased to include the EnSync Smart Home in our project and bring the benefits of solar directly to affordable communities.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Understand the pros and cons of software and communications decisions

software and communications strategy

At times, it is optimal to have connected devices in place. At other times, it creates another point of failure.

As is true in every industry today, solar installations are becoming smarter and more connected by leveraging the power of real-time data, remote controls and responsiveness to improve project and product performance. Project owners and financing partners cheer software platforms that enable sophisticated communications.

Without question, software and communications can play an important role in many storage projects. First and foremost, battery communication capabilities may be required or at least strongly recommended when integrating with certain inverters, chargers and other power electronics.

At the residential level, such software and communications allow for higher level monitoring capabilities that provide both the installer and homeowner with granular data on system performance and health. Software can also improve ease-of-programming.

When it comes to C&I projects, software and communications plays an even more important role. These large-scale projects often combine large numbers of interconnected technology assets and hardware that require communications and software to communicate with one another and perform as an integrated system.

But be careful…

That said, as important as these technologies are to the future of the renewable energy industry, be sure to proceed with caution.

At times, it is optimal to have connected devices in place. At other times, it creates another point of failure. When an installation’s on-site management is dependent on interconnectivity through networks and airwaves, what happens when those conduits cease to function?

In an environment in which renewable energy + storage deployments have become more and more critical in the face of escalating catastrophic events, it’s important to recognize that software and communications can create barriers to energy resilience when the grid and Internet networks are unavailable. The result is stranded assets that do not have the ability to turn back on without the intervention of a highly trained professional.

After Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, for example, homeowners did not have the ability to bring their systems back online, and expert software technicians were unavailable to service offline inverters and energy storage systems for some time. The same issue has posed problems in remote communities, where technical expertise to reset and restore system function has not been available locally. In this kind of situation it often makes sense to have a simpler, user-friendly battery system design.

Be sure to weigh the added cost and complexity of installing a smart storage system. With additional wiring and programming required, installation can be longer and more cumbersome without added benefit.

Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to communications and software. In some cases, connectivity is essential to project success. But in other situations, building resiliency is better achieved through a simpler approach that empowers the end user to own, control, manage and fix their own systems. The key for installers is to understand both and be able to advise their customers as to which is most advantageous for their unique circumstance and project objects.

This post and the entire 12 Days of Storage was contributed by SimpliPhi.

— Solar Builder magazine

EnSync Energy adds demand management function to its solar + storage Smart Home platform

Ensync Smart home

EnSync Energy Systems is taking its innovative line of residential and commercial solar plus storage systems and asset control platforms one step further with the addition of demand management capability.

This new EnSync Smart Home system integrates the management of on-site solar plus storage with the management of demand from residential appliances, including electric water heaters, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, lighting sources and electric vehicle charging stations. By enabling this level of coordination between photovoltaics (PV), batteries, the utility grid and home consumption, the system not only optimizes energy for price and reliability, but also increases energy autonomy.

The product will debut with integration of smart water heater load control, then expand to integrate electric vehicle charge control, and finally to other major appliances by the end of next year.

“The EnSync Smart Home system enables both energy independence and cost savings by integrating utility rate information and electricity supply from PV, energy storage and the grid with electricity demand data from major appliances in the home,” said Brad Hansen, CEO of EnSync Energy.

How it works

For example, by integrating water heater load into the system, the system can intelligently manage heating of the water to occur at lower-use times of day, such as before anyone in the home wakes up or during peak PV generation, when the home is producing excess electricity, to have the water ready for the evening. The system can also intelligently discharge the battery to offset load sources in order to minimize grid electricity.

“This ability to intelligently offset home loads with storage enables the consumer to minimize adverse impact from tiered rates, time-of-day rates and demand charges from the utility, while also maintaining the quality of life and comfort the homeowner is accustomed to,” Hansen says.

The EnSync Smart Home is the latest development of the EnSync Home Energy System, which debuted in May 2018. Designed for multi-unit properties and residential communities, the system’s modular structure, DC BUS architecture and IoE communications, command and control platform optimizes the economics of clean energy for both multi-family properties and individual homes. Its lithium-iron-phosphate battery chemistry also ensures greater energy storage safety.

To achieve further grid independence, EnSync Smart Home can also integrate individual residential units into an energy sharing network with the EnSync True Peer-to-Peer DC-Link. By allowing individual residential units to exchange electricity directly with one another, this feature mitigates the inefficiencies created by vacancy rates, time-of-day absence and micro-loading effects in multi-unit properties or communities, increasing utilization of the solar generation across the network as a whole.

Being able to manage the energy supply and load in the home in an integrated and intelligent fashion will be key criteria for achieving market leadership in the residential energy storage market, which EnSync Energy estimates will be worth more than $9 billionover the next five years, with a compound annual growth rate of more than 60 percent.

— Solar Builder magazine

Design a battery bank to grow with your customers

modular battery storage design

Whether residential or commercial, energy needs and usage inevitably evolve over time — most often with power loads and required energy increasing as operations or families grow.
With that reality in mind, the ability to deliver energy storage solutions that can scale and expand in sync with an end customer’s needs is an important installation selling point.

Understanding scalability

Battery size and modularity can make a big difference when it comes to project scalability, optimization and ease of installation, but not every battery has the ability to scale. Some are limited to two-to-four in parallel configurations, while other batteries are designed to scale to any desired kWh.

For example, at the Taft Botanical Garden in Ojai, Calif., the property owners realized that their ground mount solar array was generating significantly more energy than anticipated — and more than their initial 21 kWh battery bank could store. At the same time, special events at the garden were taxing the system with high demand. The system installers were able to easily double the size of the battery bank by adding new batteries to the existing bank (blending old and new), harnessing more solar power to the benefit of the property’s operational needs and budget.

Consider kWh optimization and space utilization

Energy storage modularity is also a benefit when it comes to optimizing storage for each unique deployment case and environment. Smaller building blocks allow more flexibility to narrow in on the exact kWh capacity best suited to a project. Modular batteries also allow more freedom when it comes to space utilization, making it possible to install in small, crowded or uniquely configured locations.

At a home in England, for example, the homeowners had only one, tiny “Harry Potter-sized” under-stair closet available to house their battery bank. With small, modular batteries, that installation location proved to be no problem.

Simplify, accelerate your installs

Common battery weights range from 50 lbs to more than 400 lbs. Depending on how much your battery weighs, the installation process will be very different.

Larger batteries require heavy equipment to install and present limitations as to how they can be installed. For example, mounting a 400 lb battery on a wall would be impractical, whereas simple brackets and standard shelving can easily house smaller, lighter weight batteries. You may also find other limitations with larger battery building blocks such as doorway restrictions and stairwell limitations when installing.

When it comes to choosing the right battery for your next storage project, consider solutions that can scale and expand. The added flexibility and simplicity will be appreciated by customers both in the present and years down the road.

This post and the entire 12 Days of Storage was contributed by SimpliPhi.

— Solar Builder magazine