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We believe there is an opportunity to collaborate among leading smart solar inverter manufacturers, our innovative operational software company and utilities to create a dynamic relationship between the utility and their customers. This relationship would be built on providing utilities and consumers alike, with full awareness of installed capacity, energy output, battery storage and grid dynamics that determine real-time operating decisions at each residence for an aggregated benefit to the grid, non-solar customers, and solar-generating customers.
Global warming, peak oil, environmental concerns, political motivation and increasing power bills have conspired to produce increasing pressure on utilities to integrate intermittent sources like solar and wind.
The grid was created to supply power from central generation sources out to consumers and has really only been able to absorb distributed solar power effectively as long as the solar power was insignificant. However, grid-tied solar has caught on significantly and with it has come stability and profitability issues for the grid companies. Now, in many areas, it is a lengthy and expensive process to get the permits to connect grid-tied solar and, in some areas, there are additional monthly fixed charges on grid-tied solar.
It is really time to rethink the home energy system, the role a local utility can play, what requirements should be in place going forward to enable higher penetrations of distributed solar generation and understand drawbacks and benefits to the grid of properly configured distributed solar solutions.
One way to think of it is building a system, piece by piece. Each building block adds additional functionality and benefits for the customer and for the utility grid operations. Individually, these pieces may be detrimental to grid operations but, properly configured the synergy created provides significant benefits for the utility. You can think of this like an orchestra. Each instrument provides a unique sound and individually may not necessarily seem interesting but, in combination and effectively orchestrated, the complete assembly is inspirational.
In the case of grid-tied rooftop solar, the customer benefits from simply installing a new smart inverter and some panels. They see immediate benefit in the way of a lower monthly power bill. If local electric rates are above grid parity for solar (currently about 20 cents/kwh) his investment would provide a positive return over its operational lifetime. This is all well and good for the individual but, his investment has provided no benefit to the utility and may negatively impact its operation and in so doing, impact his neighbors as well.
Now, if batteries and a charge controller are added to the system, perhaps it can be configured to charge and discharge batteries to provide a number of benefits. Certainly the addition of batteries could provide the customer with some off-grid and off-peak hours operation, but, can the functions of the smart inverter and those of the battery charge controller be orchestrated for utility grid benefit as well? What if the smart inverter and charge controller were combined into one device coordinated by a single intelligent process? In this case, we achieve even more benefits including:
Energy release into the grid can be controlled to more closely coincide with peak demand,
reverse flow onto the grid during peak generation hours can be eliminated,
solar irradiance variability (the cloud cover effect) can be mitigated, thus providing a smooth delivery of energy to the grid
Our orchestra is starting to sound like something everyone will enjoy. But, there could be more. Suppose we add Uninterruptable Power Supply capabilities and the ability to dispatch heavy loads based on measurement of voltage and frequency locally on the grid? These capabilities are available today and provide the complete solution anticipated by all advocates of the Smart Grid.
Finally, our solution aligns utility operations with political, customer, social, environmental and energy independence goals.
For more information, please contact us at +1 (206) 399-3815