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

JLM Energy is going with Ideal Power for power converters in 750-kW purchase order

JLM Energy Phazr MicroStorage

JLM Energy’s Phazr MicroStorage mounts easily on solar racking and plugs into the microinverter and solar panel with MC4 connectors, virtually eliminating design and installation costs. Phazr comes in 7 sizes to pair directly with the solar panel wattage. Two Phazr’s can go behind each panel for up to 5 hours energy storage. Phazr has no single point of failure and provides the lowest total cost of ownership for energy storage on the market today. Works for Residential & Commercial applications. (PRNewsfoto/JLM Energy)

JLM Energy is big into commercial and industrial (C&I) energy storage systems for ‘behind the meter’ peak shaving solutions in the California market. The company just announced it will be incorporating Ideal Power Inc‘s 30-kW Stabiliti power conversion technology as part of a $750,000 purchase order.

The latest JLM purchase order is for 25 30-kW dual-port Stabiliti series power conversion systems, to primarily provide ‘behind the meter’ peak shaving solutions to California manufacturing and industrial companies. The units are currently scheduled for delivery in March 2018.

JLM Energy’s primary customers are companies that operate printing, food processing, metal fabrication and finishing, plastic and foil converting and coating businesses where manufacturing equipment and processes often require large surges in electrical power. JLM’s Gridz commercial energy storage systems effectively provide the necessary peak surges without drawing electricity demand from the grid and electric utility, reducing electrical demand charges and utility expenses considerably.

JLM Energy’s solar+storage now automated with Hawaii tariff data to manage usage

“The supply partnership with Ideal Power expands fulfillment capacity and improves support of a growing fleet of JLM’s commercial energy management and microgrid systems, including our Gridz and Measurz offerings,” said Bob Montano, vice president of operations for JLM Energy. “We’re a technology-driven, customer focused com-pany, and we’re excited to continue working with Ideal Power to optimize energy use and maximize savings through safe and reliable solutions for our customers.”

“We are thrilled to provide JLM Energy with our latest power conversion technology to enable cost effective, flexible and efficient systems,” said Ideal Power CEO Dan Brdar. “We’re confident that Ideal Power’s UL 1741 SA certified 30 kW Stabiliti series products can help serve JLM’s pipeline of commercial storage projects.”

— Solar Builder magazine

JLM Energy is going with Ideal Power for power converters in 750-kW purchase order

JLM Energy Phazr MicroStorage

JLM Energy’s Phazr MicroStorage mounts easily on solar racking and plugs into the microinverter and solar panel with MC4 connectors, virtually eliminating design and installation costs. Phazr comes in 7 sizes to pair directly with the solar panel wattage. Two Phazr’s can go behind each panel for up to 5 hours energy storage. Phazr has no single point of failure and provides the lowest total cost of ownership for energy storage on the market today. Works for Residential & Commercial applications. (PRNewsfoto/JLM Energy)

JLM Energy is big into commercial and industrial (C&I) energy storage systems for ‘behind the meter’ peak shaving solutions in the California market. The company just announced it will be incorporating Ideal Power Inc‘s 30-kW Stabiliti power conversion technology as part of a $750,000 purchase order.

The latest JLM purchase order is for 25 30-kW dual-port Stabiliti series power conversion systems, to primarily provide ‘behind the meter’ peak shaving solutions to California manufacturing and industrial companies. The units are currently scheduled for delivery in March 2018.

JLM Energy’s primary customers are companies that operate printing, food processing, metal fabrication and finishing, plastic and foil converting and coating businesses where manufacturing equipment and processes often require large surges in electrical power. JLM’s Gridz commercial energy storage systems effectively provide the necessary peak surges without drawing electricity demand from the grid and electric utility, reducing electrical demand charges and utility expenses considerably.

JLM Energy’s solar+storage now automated with Hawaii tariff data to manage usage

“The supply partnership with Ideal Power expands fulfillment capacity and improves support of a growing fleet of JLM’s commercial energy management and microgrid systems, including our Gridz and Measurz offerings,” said Bob Montano, vice president of operations for JLM Energy. “We’re a technology-driven, customer focused com-pany, and we’re excited to continue working with Ideal Power to optimize energy use and maximize savings through safe and reliable solutions for our customers.”

“We are thrilled to provide JLM Energy with our latest power conversion technology to enable cost effective, flexible and efficient systems,” said Ideal Power CEO Dan Brdar. “We’re confident that Ideal Power’s UL 1741 SA certified 30 kW Stabiliti series products can help serve JLM’s pipeline of commercial storage projects.”

— Solar Builder magazine

The Ultimate SPI Showcase: Here’s what to see at Solar Power International 2017

Big leap for microinverters

APsystems SPI

APsystems will unveil the YC600, a dual-module, smart grid and Rule 21 compliant microinverter at SPI in Las Vegas. A groundbreaking design in microinverter technology, the YC600 will offer the highest peak output power, faster transmission speed and more modules allowed per string than comparable microinverters. A wider MPPT voltage range will result in a greater energy harvest for homeowners.

You’ll want to get the full scoop at booth 1745.

Streamlined Shutdown

Fronius

Fronius is launching a new generation of its Rapid Shutdown Box, which the company says will be the most convenient solution for NEC 2014 (690.12) and NEC 2017 compliance, while enhancing overall rooftop and firefighter safety. The new generation includes two versions: the Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box Duo and Quattro.
“Based on customer feedback, we implemented many improvements into this new generation of our Rapid Shutdown Box,” says Michael Mendik, head of solution management at Fronius USA.

Directly connected to the inverter through the same conduit as the DC homeruns and powered by the array, the Fronius solution minimizes the number of components and eliminates the need for an external power supply. The low-profile design and the multiple mounting options allow for installation underneath the modules, ensuring a clean system look. In addition, the NEMA 4X rating ensures the box is built for severe outdoor conditions. MC4 connectors, spring-loaded terminals and generous wiring space make the wiring a breeze. The Rapid Shutdown Box also acts as a combiner box, removing the need for additional hardware. Booth 3943.

Lightweight, flexible power conversion

Ideal Power

Ideal Power invented a new kind of power conversion architecture that delivers on flexibility, allowing you to enable or disable any features depending on project needs. At SPI, check out its 30-kW Stabiliti Series power converters. These multiport, compact converters are smaller, lighter and dramatically reduce installation costs while increasing return on investment. Ideal Power recently partnered with NEXTracker to implement it in various PV sites throughout North America. Booth 1433.

A top rail clip to rule them all

Heyco solar rail clips

Heyco has been busy this summer, introducing several new clips and wire management accessories for the solar market. Newest to the lineup are the SunRunner 4-2 and SunRunner 4-2U, which are top rail clips for various racking manufacturers such as Unirac, Ironridge, Everest, SnapNRack, Solar Mount and other similar racking profiles. The SunRunner 4-2 and SunRunner 4-2U are suitable for the new Enphase Q Cable. At the booth, you can also enter for a chance to win a Google Home. Booth 4762.

Drive down carport costs

Baja Carports InterSolar 2017 Booth Models

Baja Construction always has a standout booth, and this year its in-house construction team will be installing its signature Baja Solar Support System design, the “Braced Single Post Support,” built with high-tensile light gauge steel to support 24 solar modules (7.8 kW). Included in the structure is an EV Station for the hot red Tesla parked underneath. Meet Baja’s in-house designers, engineers and project managers and also make certain to visit Baja’s sponsored lobby lounge for food and beverages. I’m sure you’re already there. Booth 4155.

Improve your grip strength

Ace Clamp solar mount
AceClamps are factory-assembled clamps with patented design features that allow strong connections to standing-seam roof panels without the use of set screws or any other loose parts that could damage the surface of the roof panel. AceClamp designs have been vibration tested during the development stage and incorporate special locking features to ensure that the bolts do not back out when subjected to vibratory loads from wind flutter and light seismic activity. Booth 809.

OMG Roofing solar mount

OMG Roofing Products has introduced PowerGrip Universal for mounting solar racking systems on commercial roofs. PowerGrip Universal is designed to reduce or eliminate ballast in solar racking systems, so there’s less weight, material handling and labor on the roof. Made of heavy-duty cast aluminum, PowerGrip Universal offers 3,300 lbf of tensile strength, 2,500 lbf of shear strength and 2,000 lbf of compressive strength. It’s one of the strongest anchors on the market. Booth 629.

Solar Connections

The Standing Seam Power Clamp from Solar Connections can attach to virtually any standing seam profile and draws its strength from patent-pending WaveLock Technology with optional two, three and five points of attachment. The top can be custom drilled and tapped to fit any bolt configuration. Offering ease of installation, the Silver Bullet set screws include a rounded bullet tip to maximize strength while also keeping the paint finish and seam free from harm. Additionally, the Standing Seam Power Clamp is available in standard mill finish aluminum material, making it an item you can easily keep in stock when the need arises. Booth 1569.

Reinventing the ground mount

Nuance Energy

Nuance Energy’s patent-pending Osprey PowerPlatform could revolutionize ground-mounted solar projects. This earth anchor foundation system satisfies permitting requirements for virtually any site and soil type without the need for geotechnical reports or special inspections. It eliminates the need for heavy equipment or cement by enabling small, unskilled crews to install the entire platform quickly and easily using only handheld tools. Booth 2108.

Meet the 4G platform

Ginlong Solis inverter

Ginlong Technologies is now shipping its Solis 4G Platform. What you can see at SPI this year in booth 2427 is the Solis-1P(2.5-10K)-4G-US single phase string inverters, with high switching frequency; 2, 3 and 4 MPPTs designs; 97.8 percent peak efficiency (97.5 percent CEC); fan-less NEMA 4X / IP65 design, integrated AFCI; web-based and smartphone app monitoring, all under 44 lbs. The Solis 25K-66K-US three phase inverters are designed for all commercial and utility-scale installations with four MPPT designs and ultra-low start up volume that maximizes energy harvest. Booth 2427.

Five trackers to, um, track

SunLink TTD

SunLink’s TechTrack enables efficient load redistribution and allows the system to handle extreme wind with less steel, fewer foundations and lower cost. Now, TechTrack’s intelligent control system also delivers equally responsive control modes for snow, flood and O&M. The result is system level benefits, visible in SunLink’s Vertex data monitoring system. Rigorous testing to UL3703 further reduces permitting risk. Booth 3319.

Soltec

SF7 is the next-generation horizontal single-axis solar PV tracker from Soltec. Soltec says the SF7 enables up to 5 percent greater MW per acre than other trackers and does that with 54 percent fewer piles-per-MW, 15 percent less parts count and 58 percent fewer screw type connections than leading competitors. SF7 standard features include short tracker site-filling options, unique steep-slope tolerance of 17 percent NS, efficient self-powering and innovative cable management solutions for combining, fusing and protecting PV source circuits more economically. Booth 3640.

Solar FlexRack TDP 2 Turnkey Solar Tracker_2017

Solar FlexRack is launching its TDP Tracker with a new BalanceTrac design to increase energy yield and reduce balance of system costs. This TDP 2.0 Solar Tracker with BalanceTrac, optimized for 1,000- and 1,500-V modules, has greater rotational range of up to 120° and enables more modules per row (up to 90). The robust design delivers autonomous tables that increase site flexibility to maximize land use. Booth 2538.

AllEarth Renewable

AllEarth Renewables is showing off its new Gen 4 tracker which will be self-powered, to guard against the grid going down and will have expanded communication options, such as Wi-Fi, cellular and SD card enabled. It will come as a complete, pre-engineered system for easy, efficient shipping. Booth 626.

Array Technologies

Array Technologies is revealing the results of a recent TÜV Rheinland-backed independent report focused on solar tracker reliability. Array’s latest single-axis tracker, the DuraTrack HZ v3, is often touted for its reliability and lower cost of ownership. Array says DuraTrack HZ v3 is proven to be 300x less likely to experience catastrophic failure during wind events than more stow-reliant, single-row competitors. Booth 2919.

Page two has new on big-time collaborations, products for boosting performance, installing on shingles and more.

— Solar Builder magazine

NEXTracker to add Ideal Power solar-plus-storage equipment to NX Fusion Plus

nx fusion solar storage

Power conversion technology company Ideal Power has signed a master purchase agreement with NEXTracker to supply its 30 kilowatt (kW) SunDial storage-enabled multi-port photovoltaic (PV) string inverter, its 30 kW Stabilitipower conversion system, and a custom NEXTracker-exclusive 15 kW SunDial. NEXTracker will integrate the systems into its NX Fusion Plus solar-plus-storage product and deploy them to various commercial, industrial and utility sites throughout North America.

“Ideal Power’s system is compact and versatile, enabling the seamless integration of solar-plus-storage in one inverter package,” said NEXTracker CTO Alex Au. “Now, project developers and system integrators have a solution for rapid installation, scalability and maximum energy output. We’re pleased to be working with Ideal Power to drive the adoption of integrated solar and storage.”

NEXTracker’s NX Fusion Plus may include either the SunDial, Stabiliti or both, depending on the specific needs of each project, and will come fully equipped, pre-wired, pre-assembled and ready to power up with the systems in place. Ideal Power’s SunDial inverter includes full galvanic isolation and is field upgradeable anytime with a plug-and-play bidirectional direct current (DC) power port kit. The inverter also eliminates the complicated alternating current (AC) coupling that has been traditionally prominent in the industry. Ideal Power’s Stabiliti series is a grid-resilient power conversion system that brings many of the benefits of the SunDial plus grid forming capabilities for microgrid applications.

Report: NEXTracker led PV tracker market share in 2016

“NEXTracker’s solar-plus-storage product helps safeguard against the reduction or elimination of net metering incentives for new solar installations happening across North America, while providing a higher return on investment than solar alone,” said Ideal Power CEO Dan Brdar. “Customers should also be able to access the 30 percent federal investment tax credit available for storage installed with new solar. We are pleased to partner with NEXTracker to deliver this superior product.”

“This agreement establishes our relationship with a successful and fast growing global supplier to the solar market,” said Ideal Power Chairman Lon Bell. “Further, it allows us to focus on energy storage markets which we believe benefit from our proprietary multi-port and microgrid-capable products.”

Ideal Power will be selling product initially, before transitioning to licensing. A licensing agreement with Flex for the NX Fusion Plus is already in place.

— Solar Builder magazine