DER power couple: EnSync, Schneider Electric look to advance grid edge market

Ensync energy systems

EnSync Energy Systems, a developer of distributed energy resource (DER) systems and Internet of Energy (IoE) control platforms for the utility, commercial, industrial and multi-tenant building markets, will be working with Schneider Electric to explore technology and opportunities in the DER market.

After reviewing EnSync’s Matrix Energy System, the two companies identified areas of mutual interest for collaboration. Starting in June 2017, Schneider Electric and EnSync Energy Systems will jointly explore market opportunities and technology advancements required to best serve markets utilizing distributed energy resources.

“The grid landscape is changing rapidly and DER deployments are challenging incumbent grid operating models,” said EnSync Energy executive vice president, Dan Nordloh. “Both companies feel that we are in the early stages of transformational grid edge market opportunities. We look forward to strengthening our relationship with Schneider Electric to explore these areas of collaboration.”

The growth in distributed solar generation enables decentralization of the grid and bi-directional power flows from all DERs. This provides an opportunity to integrate DER control and use it to the benefit of the overall electrical network.

Solar rate design: Details on unified approach to evolve net metering

Nordloh continued, “We are transitioning from simple distributed generation into an era of integrated distributed energy resources, where renewables, storage, energy management systems and IoE control capabilities replace solar-only installations. These distributed energy resources are an efficient and economical way to solve the shortcomings of the antiquated grid network and benefit the asset owner, enabling them to participate in the capacity and energy markets, as well as provide ancillary services. Distributed energy resources are effectively virtual power plants for the grid network. We are excited to be exploring this market with a globally recognized leader in power systems.”

Navigant Research forecasts the annual market for solar plus energy storage DERs to grow to nearly $50 billion by 2026, with a 2017 to 2026 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 40 percent.

 

— Solar Builder magazine

Minnesota Power reveals next step in its renewable energy growth strategy

Minnesota Power solar

Minnesota Power, a utility division of ALLETE, is taking the next step in its EnergyForward strategy. If approved by regulators, the resource package coupled with the company’s existing renewable resources will result in renewable resources providing 44 percent of the company’s energy supply by 2025, further reducing carbon emissions while keeping rates affordable.

In an upcoming filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC), Minnesota Power will request the addition of 250 megawatts of wind power capacity, an additional 10 megawatts of solar power and 250 megawatts of combined-cycle natural gas generation to meet customer demand for power, which is projected to grow throughout the region. The new resources will increase the company’s already robust wind portfolio of 620 megawatts and double its solar generation.

“For the past four years, EnergyForward has been exceeding expectations for how an energy company can transform the way it produces and delivers energy,” said Brad Oachs, president of Regulated Operations. “We look forward to working with our customers and regulators to continue down the path toward a safe, reliable, cleaner and affordable energy future.”

Special Report: How to Make Money in the Midwest

With approval of the proposed resource package by the MPUC, renewable energy resources— including wind, Canadian hydro, solar and biomass—will account for 44 percent of the utility’s energy supply portfolio, exceeding the initial EnergyForward goal of one-third renewable power. Minnesota Power’s long-term goal is an energy mix of two-thirds renewable energy and flexible, renewable-enabling natural gas and one-third environmentally compliant baseload coal.

Natural gas is an essential component of the resource package to be filed with regulators. Without this plant, Minnesota Power would be reliant on fluctuating wholesale market prices when sun and wind resources aren’t available, increasing overall costs over the long-run.

Minnesota Power will file later this summer with the MPUC requesting approval of the resource package. After filing, state regulators will open a formal review process to consider Minnesota Power’s request. After input from stakeholders and the public, a final determination is expected in the latter half of 2018.

The details of Minnesota Power’s proposal include:

• Natural gas. Minnesota Power is proposing a joint ownership structure with Dairyland Power Cooperative to build a state-of-the-art 525- to 550-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas power plant in Superior, Wisconsin. Minnesota Power would purchase approximately 50 percent of the plant’s output (250 megawatts) from an ALLETE subsidiary starting in 2025 to serve customer load, stabilizing energy supply for times when renewable energy capability is lower. The project will create an estimated 260 construction jobs and employ approximately 25 full-time workers.

• Wind. Minnesota Power conducted a robust competitive process as part of its 2015 Integrated Resource Plan. An independent, third-party evaluator reviewed the bids and recommended a 250-megawatt, 20-year purchase power agreement (PPA) with independent power producer Tenaska, to be located in southwestern Minnesota. In addition to providing the lowest overall cost among the wind farm bids, Tenaska’s Nobles 2 Power Partners wind farm will offer greater geographic diversity among Minnesota Power’s wind resources and a highly efficient wind resource. Minnesota Power has an option to purchase the wind farm after 10 years of production.

• Solar. To achieve the state’s solar requirements, the Minnesota Power package proposes to add 10 megawatts of solar power by 2020 through a 25-year PPA with Cypress Creek Renewables. The addition will complement the current 10-megawatt Camp Ripley project that was completed last year and will be placed within Minnesota Power’s distribution system near Royalton in central Minnesota. The agreement includes an option for Minnesota Power to purchase the array.

 

Minnesota Power provides electric service within a 26,000-square-mile area in Northeastern Minnesota, supporting comfort, security and quality of life for 145,000 customers, 16 municipalities and some of the largest industrial customers in the United States.

— Solar Builder magazine

Top 4 takeaways from Q1 2017 Solar Market Insight Report

Nevada solar utility

Following rapid growth across the industry in 2016, the United States solar market added 2,044 megawatts of new capacity in the first quarter of 2017, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report. Q1 was the sixth straight quarter in which more than two gigawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) and more than one gigawatt of utility-scale PV was installed.

The residential and non-residential PV markets are both expected to experience year-over-year growth, even as the quarterly numbers saw a drop from last year’s record-setting pace, the report said.

“The solar market clearly remains on a strong upward trajectory,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Solar is delivering more clean energy, adding jobs 17 times faster than the U.S. economy and creating tens of billions of dollars in investment. With its cost-competitiveness, we know solar will continue to play a growing role in America’s energy portfolio.”

Here’s what to know beneath those big numbers.

1. Utility-scale growth, price declines continue

As installations grow, prices continue to fall to new lows, with utility-scale system prices dropping below the $1 per watt barrier for the first time.

The utility-scale segment continues to drive the market, representing more than half of all PV installed during the quarter. Much of the capacity comes from projects that were originally slated for completion in 2016, but ended up being pushed back due to the extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit. And this entire year is expected to benefit from those “spill-over” projects.

“Utility solar is on the cusp of another boom in procurement,” said Cory Honeyman, GTM Research’s associate director of U.S. solar. “The majority of utility solicitations are focused on maximizing the number of projects that can come online with a 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit in 2019, or later by leveraging commence construction rules.”

2. Declines in California means declines overall

More than a half-gigawatt of residential PV was installed in the quarter, down 17 percent from the first quarter of last year. Part of the slowdown can be attributed to national installers pulling back operations in unprofitable geographies and customer acquisition challenges in more mature residential state markets like California.

According to the report, residential PV installations in California will fall year-over-year for the first time this decade. Despite this, California remains the largest state market for residential solar installations.

3. Community solar is saving the non-residential segment

The non-residential solar market—which includes commercial, industrial and community solar installations—grew 29 percent year-over-year, but was down 39 percent from a record high fourth quarter 2016.

The report highlighted Minnesota’s growing community solar market. The state nearly doubled its cumulative community solar deployment in Q1.

Several other states not as well known for their solar markets saw particularly large jumps in installations this quarter, including Idaho and Indiana. Meanwhile, emerging state markets such as Utah, Texas and South Carolina continued their growth.

Read more about that Minnesota community solar boom in our Special Report:

Special Report: How to Make Money in the Midwest

4. None of this matters until the trade dispute is settled

GTM Research forecasts that 12.6 gigawatts will come online in 2017, 10 percent less than 2016’s boom. Total installed U.S. solar PV capacity is expected to nearly triple over the next five years, and by 2022, more than 18 gigawatts of solar PV capacity will be installed annually.

However, downside risk looms over the long-term outlook for U.S. solar, due to a new trade dispute initiated by Suniva.

According to the report, if Suniva’s petition for a minimum silicon PV module price of 78 cents per watt is successful, it could raise system costs between 13 and 35 percent, depending on segment. While it remains unclear how the International Trade Commission will ultimately rule on this petition by Suniva, the approval of the petition as initially filed would result in substantial downside revisions to the GTM Research forecast across all three segments.

 

— Solar Builder magazine

Younicos delivers MW-scale storage system to Austin Energy

younicos

Younicos has signed an agreement to deliver a megawatt-scale battery storage system to Austin Energy, as part of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded initiative known as the Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV (SHINES) project.

Younicos will collaborate with the project’s prime contractor, Doosan GridTech, to install the 1.75 MW / 3.2 MWh system using the company’s innovative Y.Cube systems. They will be managed by Younicos’s Y.Q software platform, communicating with the Doosan GridTech Intelligent Controller using the MESA (Modular Energy Storage Architecture) open standard. The seven Y.Cubes and Y.Converters represent the company’s largest Y.Cube deployment in the U.S. to date.

The Y.Cube systems will provide storage capabilities as part of a Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS) that will maintain grid reliability while also enabling energy loads to be delivered at the lowest possible cost with high penetration levels of distributed PV generation. The platform, called DG-DERO™, also provided by Doosan GridTech, will use multiple advanced control methodologies that will be demonstrated and evaluated using a fleet of diverse DER assets deployed at various locations among Austin Energy’s customers.

Here’s the price of residential solar-plus-storage systems, according to DOE research

In addition to optimizing battery performance in combination with solar PV, a key requirement of the project is compliance with strict safety standards. The battery system will be located in a neighborhood in East Austin, coexisting near both residential and commercial buildings. The Y.Cube, which has been optimized for use in commercial and industrial battery storage applications, is a plug-and-play system that also contains multiple thermal management subsystems for maximum safety.

“We’re keeping Austin weird – and energized,” said Stephen L. Prince, CEO of Younicos. “The SHINES project is the perfect showcase for an alternative, distributed energy system with resources like energy storage providing resiliency and security. Our Y.Cube is ideal for this application – offering the best in battery storage, intelligent control, system performance and safety in a compact form factor. We’re very pleased to partner with Austin Energy and Doosan GridTech on this innovative project.”

“Integrating energy storage with solar is becoming essential as we achieve our utility’s goal of 55% renewable energy by 2025,” says Karl Popham, Austin SHINES Principal Investigator and Manager of Emerging Technologies at Austin Energy. “The Austin SHINES program is more than a technical pilot; it is phase one of a larger rollout to maximize the value of distributed energy resources for our customers and the utility. Ultimately, it’s about clean energy being even more affordable and reliable.”

Daejin Choi, CEO of Doosan GridTech commented, “We are pleased to be working with Younicos on this breakthrough project. The Modular Energy Storage Architecture (MESA) open standard provides the software architecture that allows us each to bring our innovation to Austin Energy without a lot of custom engineering to fit the pieces together. Austin preserves choice in their system moving forward and we each get to focus on our core competencies.”

— Solar Builder magazine

PG&E is dropping the cost for its Solar Choice program, procuring more solar sites

Pacific Gas & Energy

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is dropping the cost to participate in its 100 percent solar energy program by 30 percent for residential customers and by nearly 50 percent for some business customers. This significant cost reduction in the company’s Solar Choice program is thanks in part to PG&E’s continued investment in clean energy infrastructure throughout its service area, including eight new solar sites being built for the program by renewable developers in Northern and Central California.

PG&E’s Solar Choice program offers a new way for PG&E customers to go solar – without installing rooftop solar panels. Through the program, residential and business customers can go solar by purchasing up to 100 percent of their electricity from solar energy generated in PG&E’s service area.

For the average household using 500 kilowatt-hours of energy and participating in PG&E’s Solar Choice program at 100 percent, the price to participate in the program last year was approximately $18 per month. Now, it is about $13 per month. Customers can participate in the 50 percent solar program for half the cost. An online tool is available to help customers estimate this charge based on their energy usage.

“PG&E’s Solar Choice is all about giving our customers more options when it comes to clean energy. By sourcing new local solar developments in the communities we are privileged to serve, more customers who want to support California’s clean energy future can now do so at a lower cost. This is a win for our customers, and a win for the state’s ambitious clean energy goals,” said Aaron Johnson, vice president of PG&E’s Customer Energy Solutions.

On the scene: New solar installation products we saw at the California Solar Power Expo

New solar sites for program

PG&E is procuring more clean energy on behalf of its Solar Choice customers from eight new solar sites in Northern and Central California. PG&E is working with the renewable developers that are building the new solar sites in cities across PG&E’s service area. At this time, PG&E has procured nearly 53 megawatts of new solar capacity on behalf of customers who are enrolled in the Solar Choice program.

The renewable developers building the new sites include 8minutenergy Renewables, AES Distributed Energy, Green Light Energy Corporation, ImMODO Energy Services, Mirasol Development, Recurrent Energy and Solar Frontier Americas Development LLC.

— Solar Builder magazine