Published on June 27th, 2020 | by Zachary Shahan0
7 Bonus Solar + Storage Stories — Sonnen, Sunrun, Stem …
June 27th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
There’s only so much time in the day — a lesson I seem intent on not learning. We’ve published many solar energy articles in the past month and many energy storage articles, but here are 7 more solar plus storage (solar+storage) articles we just couldn’t dedicate full articles to.
1. sonnen launched the ecoLinx 30 this month, a new intelligent energy storage system. “ecoLinx 30 features sonnen’s industry-leading warranty of 15,000 charge cycles/15 years as well as the same ability to add energy automation functionality as the existing ecoLinx product portfolio. And with a new, shorter and wider form factor, ecoLinx 30 provides greater flexibility and versatility for placing energy storage in and around the home.
“By working with new or existing solar systems, leading automation platforms, and controllable breakers, ecoLinx 30 joins the existing portfolio of sonnen energy automation products in offering smart weather forecasting, smart configurable backup power, smart demand control and load management to provide greater overall management of energy usage in the home. The sonnen ecoLinx 30 is also eligible for participation in growing “bring your own battery” programs that provide homeowners with access to cash back through select utilities when they share their battery’s excess clean energy for grid demand response programs.”
2. Stem, in partnership with Syncarpha Capital, launched its first solar+storage independent power producer (IPP) site in Massachusetts a few days ago. Stem claims to be “the global leader in artificial intelligence (AI)-driven energy storage services,” and I think that’s a fair claim.
This project is 8 MWh in size — a sizable project — and the two companies will partner for a total of 28 MWh of such projects across Massachusetts. “Over the next year, Stem and Syncarpha will deploy four additional Massachusetts projects in Halifax, Leicester, Millbury and Westminster.
“Within these projects, Stem’s AthenaTM AI platform will power one DC-coupled and four AC-coupled front-of-the-meter (FTM) solar+storage projects, including the Blandford site. Athena delivers the intelligence that enables the projects to participate in wholesale markets managed by the Independent System Operator-New England (ISO-NE). In addition, Athena will support compliance with requirements for federal investment tax credits and the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, a state initiative that promotes cost-effective solar development with customer-facing and grid service benefits.”
3. Sunrun and Orange & Rockland announced last week that they have been granted the opportunity to create a virtual power plant project in New York. Sunrun, which claims to be “the nation’s leading home solar, battery storage and energy services company,” and I think that’s a fair claim, will provide the solar panels and batteries and will get paid by Orange & Rockland to manage the project. Sunrun’s Brightbox battery systems can use Tesla Powerwalls or LG Chem batteries.
“Beginning this year, Sunrun will bundle rooftop solar energy stored in more than 300 Brightbox battery systems and deliver it to the electricity grid when called upon by O&R. O&R and Sunrun’s implementation plans were accepted by the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) last Friday. By bundling and coordinating the energy stored in Sunrun’s Brightbox home battery systems, Sunrun will form a virtual power plant to partially offset demand on O&R’s electricity grid in key areas, while providing clean, reliable, locally-generated solar power to residents in Orange and Rockland counties.”
4. AutoGrid and Sunrun announced on Thursday that Sunrun would use AutoGrid’s “AutoGrid FlexTM Virtual Power Plant (VPP)” software to help manage its residential batteries across the US.
“Under the announced partnership, Sunrun will use features of the AutoGrid Flex platform to help manage its fleet of Brightbox rechargeable solar batteries and offer new, innovative grid services and energy management solutions. The cloud-based platform enhances Sunrun’s ability to work with utilities and other electricity providers to optimize and dispatch its storage fleet for the maximum economic benefit of both customers and the grid.”
AutoGrid notes that it has more than 5,000 megawatts (MW), or 5 gigawatts (GW), of assets under contract. It manages distributed energy resources in 12 countries. “AutoGrid Flex is ranked as the #1 Virtual Power Plant Platform in the world according to the global ranking published in 2020 by industry-leading research and analysis firm Guidehouse (formerly, Navigant Research).”
5. The US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and several industry leaders are coming together “to identify and develop solutions to solar and solar-plus-storage code enforcement and permitting challenges.” This is a 3-year national forum.
“The project builds upon and will significantly expand the work of the Sustainable Energy Action Committee (SEAC), an organization founded in California in 2015 as a forum for collaboration on guidelines for implementation of codes and standards for permitting and inspection practices of renewable energy systems. SEAC brings together authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs)—such as local building and fire departments, contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, utilities, testing labs and other clean energy stakeholders for collaboration and problem solving related to solar PV installation and energy storage projects.
“Under the recent U.S. Energy Department award, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) will lead the administration of SEAC and facilitate its expansion into a national forum. Other key partners in the project include the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI), International Code Council (ICC), UL LLC, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), U.S. Energy Storage Association (ESA) and California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA).”
Solar permitting costs are a key factor that make rooftop solar energy more expensive in the United States than in several European countries and Australia.
6. Somewhat on the topic above, Utility Dive published an article two days ago from Ted Ko, VP of Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Stem, about a ginormous backlog of energy storage projects in California that are waiting to get through the regulatory process there (the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, in particular) — $300 million worth of projects. A core part of the problem is how the incentives program was set up and is being administered. Here’s the intro to the article:
“Imagine being the administrator of the primary medical center for several disadvantaged communities, now inundated in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, you operate the only Level 1 trauma center in a 50-mile radius full of high fire-threat districts.
“You have a plan to install solar arrays plus batteries at your facilities to provide an additional layer of resilience in the face of potential outages and help meet clean energy goals. And, importantly, these projects would save on energy costs, so you could put more money toward maintaining staffing and providing desperately needed healthcare services.
“But when you applied to California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), you were immediately shut out because the demand for your category of incentives was too high. Even though nearly $450 million was unclaimed in a parallel SGIP category, your projects — which could begin construction right away — couldn’t qualify.
“This isn’t just a hypothetical example. This is reality for a hospital system in Southern California. And it’s the experience of hundreds of other organizations in California, which have over $300 million worth of shovel-ready battery projects ready to deploy, but are now stuck on a waitlist with no idea when, or if, they can move forward.”
7. 8minute Solar Energy announced this month that it made a contract to sell electricity from its 250 MW/150 MWh to Monterey Bay Community Power Authority (MBCP) and Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE). Interestingly, this is 8minute’s first contract with Community Choice Energy (CCE) providers.
This project will reportedly supply enough electricity for 93,000 homes in the region.
“Scheduled to come online before the end of 2023, the Aratina Solar Center will offset carbon emissions by approximately 430,000 metric tons each year, the equivalent of planting 7 million trees annually or removing 90,000 cars from the road.
“The Aratina Solar Center will serve approximately 7-8% of MBCP’s retail load with 120 MWac solar generating capacity, 30 MWac battery energy capacity and a 3-hour discharge duration, while SVCE will be contracting for 80 MWac solar generating capacity and 20 MWac battery energy capacity, with a 3-hour discharge duration, serving 6.6% of SVCE’s annual retail load.”
Bonus: As a less uplifting bonus story, the LA Times has a story showing that California’s clean energy programs mostly benefit the wealthy. This is long known, and is definitely a problem. Part of the problem is how companies get new technology costs down (by selling expensive products to rich people as they scale up) and part is how incentive structures were set up. There are certainly ways California could accelerate clean energy adoption while bringing the benefits to low-income residents more. In fact California has been focusing more and more on that topic. But there’s always room to raise awareness about the problem and push for more progressive progress.