Author: Energy Storage News

Sunrun solar-plus-battery systems to hasten the demise of California gas peaker plant

Power once derived from a dirty power plant in Oakland, California will soon be partially replaced by a virtual power plant (VPP) – a bundle of more than 500 residential solar-plus-battery storage systems installed on low-income homes.

Local electricity company East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) has hired San Francisco-based solar giant Sunrun to install several MWs of solar and more than two MWh of batteries on 500 low-income housing units in the area before 2022. The plan is to deliver 500KWs of grid reliability capacity over 10 years.

The project is necessary to replace the roughly 40-year old Oakland Power Plant, which burns jet fuel for electricity during peak demand and contributes to poor air quality in some of the most polluted parts of the Bay Area.

Nick Chaset, EBCE’s chief executive officer said the project “sets a precedent for how distributed energy resources, such as solar and storage, can offer financial and environmental benefits within our community.”

Chaset went further on Twitter and said that he was: “super duper excited about our Sunrun virtual power plant deal. Aggregating solar + storage on low income customer rooftops to reduce our need to buy from peakers. YES PLEASE”.

Lynn Jurich, Sunrun co-founder and CEO, said the company “is built on the foundation that solar energy should be accessible to everyone, particularly those communities most impacted by pollution and which today lack access to clean energy. Shifting from an aging, dirty fossil fuel power plant to energy provided by home solar and batteries will ensure that West Oakland residents are at the centre of the clean energy transition.”

The contract will allow Sunrun to work towards its goal of developing a minimum of 100MW of solar on affordable housing in areas where more than three quarters of tenants fall below 60% of the median income. In a late 2017 quote, Jurich had said that grid services using solar and batteries “could [soon] be extremely valuable in certain targeted way”, while the company more recently joined another virtual power plant undertaking in New England, where capacity contracts were awarded this February for Sunrun’s solar-plus-storage systems in ordinary households to provide 20MW of energy capacity.

There has been increasing interest, and now development, in using solar and energy storage for the replacement of combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) to provide peaking power on the US grid, a phenomenon we looked at in depth in the recent feature article ‘Peak time to take action’, first published in our journal, PV Tech Power. Peaker plants may actually only run for a small fraction of their operating lifetime, but are at their most polluting during their ramp up period. 

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Sunrun solar-plus-battery systems to hasten the demise of California gas peaker plant

Power once derived from a dirty power plant in Oakland, California will soon be partially replaced by a virtual power plant (VPP) – a bundle of more than 500 residential solar-plus-battery storage systems installed on low-income homes.

Local electricity company East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) has hired San Francisco-based solar giant Sunrun to install several MWs of solar and more than two MWh of batteries on 500 low-income housing units in the area before 2022. The plan is to deliver 500KWs of grid reliability capacity over 10 years.

The project is necessary to replace the roughly 40-year old Oakland Power Plant, which burns jet fuel for electricity during peak demand and contributes to poor air quality in some of the most polluted parts of the Bay Area.

Nick Chaset, EBCE’s chief executive officer said the project “sets a precedent for how distributed energy resources, such as solar and storage, can offer financial and environmental benefits within our community.”

Chaset went further on Twitter and said that he was: “super duper excited about our Sunrun virtual power plant deal. Aggregating solar + storage on low income customer rooftops to reduce our need to buy from peakers. YES PLEASE”.

Lynn Jurich, Sunrun co-founder and CEO, said the company “is built on the foundation that solar energy should be accessible to everyone, particularly those communities most impacted by pollution and which today lack access to clean energy. Shifting from an aging, dirty fossil fuel power plant to energy provided by home solar and batteries will ensure that West Oakland residents are at the centre of the clean energy transition.”

The contract will allow Sunrun to work towards its goal of developing a minimum of 100MW of solar on affordable housing in areas where more than three quarters of tenants fall below 60% of the median income. In a late 2017 quote, Jurich had said that grid services using solar and batteries “could [soon] be extremely valuable in certain targeted way”, while the company more recently joined another virtual power plant undertaking in New England, where capacity contracts were awarded this February for Sunrun’s solar-plus-storage systems in ordinary households to provide 20MW of energy capacity.

There has been increasing interest, and now development, in using solar and energy storage for the replacement of combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) to provide peaking power on the US grid, a phenomenon we looked at in depth in the recent feature article ‘Peak time to take action’, first published in our journal, PV Tech Power. Peaker plants may actually only run for a small fraction of their operating lifetime, but are at their most polluting during their ramp up period. 

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Approved: Georgia Power’s plan to own and operate 80MW of battery energy storage

Georgia Power is set to boost its state’s battery energy storage sector, with the company’s plan to own and operate 80MW of battery energy storage now approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC).

Georgia Power’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) has been approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), in a unanimous decision. The plan includes energy storage, 72% more renewable generation by 2024, and approval of the company’s environmental compliance strategy.

Allen Reaves, Georgia Power’s senior vice president and senior production officer, said: “Working with the Georgia PSC, we are positioning Georgia as a leader in the Southeast in battery energy storage, which is critical to growing and maximizing the value of renewable energy for customers as we increase our renewable generation by 72% by 2024.

“Through the IRP process, Georgia Power will continue to invest in a diverse energy portfolio including the development of renewable resources in a way that benefits all customers to deliver clean, safe, reliable energy at rates that are well below the national average.”

Under the approved IRP, Georgia Power will both own and operate the 80MW of new battery energy storage, add 2,260MW of new renewable generation to the company’s energy mix and retire five coal-fired units across the state. 

New energy efficiency programs for customers, including both an income-qualified program and aniIncome-qualified energy efficiency pilot program, were also approved in this plan. 

Georgia Power filed requests with the PSC to both raise residential rates and seek approval for its IRP earlier this month, while elsewhere in the US, utilities in New Mexico and Tennessee have also filed major new plans that include significant mention of energy storage.

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Approved: Georgia Power’s plan to own and operate 80MW of battery energy storage

Georgia Power is set to boost its state’s battery energy storage sector, with the company’s plan to own and operate 80MW of battery energy storage now approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC).

Georgia Power’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) has been approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), in a unanimous decision. The plan includes energy storage, 72% more renewable generation by 2024, and approval of the company’s environmental compliance strategy.

Allen Reaves, Georgia Power’s senior vice president and senior production officer, said: “Working with the Georgia PSC, we are positioning Georgia as a leader in the Southeast in battery energy storage, which is critical to growing and maximizing the value of renewable energy for customers as we increase our renewable generation by 72% by 2024.

“Through the IRP process, Georgia Power will continue to invest in a diverse energy portfolio including the development of renewable resources in a way that benefits all customers to deliver clean, safe, reliable energy at rates that are well below the national average.”

Under the approved IRP, Georgia Power will both own and operate the 80MW of new battery energy storage, add 2,260MW of new renewable generation to the company’s energy mix and retire five coal-fired units across the state. 

New energy efficiency programs for customers, including both an income-qualified program and aniIncome-qualified energy efficiency pilot program, were also approved in this plan. 

Georgia Power filed requests with the PSC to both raise residential rates and seek approval for its IRP earlier this month, while elsewhere in the US, utilities in New Mexico and Tennessee have also filed major new plans that include significant mention of energy storage.

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How the deal came together: Convergent CEO Johannes Ritterhausen

Following on from our look at some of the takeovers of promising or already-prolific energy storage companies in the last edition of PV Tech Power, which included Wartsila’s acquisition of Greensmith Energy, Aggreko’s purchase of Younicos and Shell’s swoop for Sonnen, here’s an exclusive interview with Convergent Energy + Power CEO Johannes Ritterhausen.

We reported last week that the developer, active across North America, has been acquired by private equity and credit investor Energy Capital Partners. ECP has some US$19 billion of assets in its portfolio across everything from oil and gas platforms to residential solar companies like Sungevity and Sunnova, the latter of which has incidentally just filed for its own forthcoming IPO.

Convergent meanwhile, finds its sweet spot in the ‘mid-market’, CEO Ritterhausen said, developing energy storage projects in the commercial space worth around US$2 million to US$25 million each, with around 50% in Ontario’s booming commercial and industry and the rest in various territories of the US. 

In terms of individual projects, Convergent may not be the biggest (although the company has deployed Ontario’s largest C&I ESS to date, at 20MWh), but there have been many announcements of new projects and financing. How is Convergent getting its projects into the ground and getting customers signed up?

Johannes Ritterhausen, CEO, Convergent Energy + Power: While we would consider some of those big huge projects that are about 6% cost of capital and [require] enormous synergies and very high development cost on land and interconnection, we can’t compete with the NextEras and First Solars of this world, that’s not our game.

We offer our projects primarily as a contract, we put in the upfront capital and sign a long-term agreement, everything from five to 20-year customer contracts in our portfolio.

What’s the value of acquiring Convergent going to be for ECP? With US$70 million put into more than 120MW / 240MWh of energy storage assets so far (70MW operational), what are some of the higher value applications for that and what were your investors most interested in?

JR: We do large industrial systems and smaller distribution connected systems for utilities. The primary applications are demand charge and electricity procurement costs savings that are based on higher peak rates, for large loads and for utilities, its infrastructure [spending] deferral. So, we’re seeing quite a large market on the industrial side, obviously in Ontario but also now in regions throughout the States.

There’s an enormous amount of customers that pay high demand charges, have large loads, and the growth potential is huge here, especially if the costs continue to go down rapidly. We’re seeing there are opportunities in all of those opening up in North America.

On the utility side, pretty much all of them have some non-wires alternatives (NWAs), it’s just a matter of how far along in their thought processes they are in using distributed energy resources (DERs) to address those problems.

The unique thing we bring to the table is really around managing the whole development cycle. You’re understanding a customer’s particular needs, their particular demand charges. You can have customers in the same utility area, right next to each other, that are paying different rates.

There’s a lot of customisation in the lead generation and customer engagement process. Then, obviously you have to design a solution with the customer effectively, be very responsive to that customer’s need and then we offer financing – it’s a shared savings type contract so the customer doesn’t take the risk.

When they sign that contract with us, we’re still there on the other side. We’re not flipping that project to a bank, or selling that project – we’re still there, it’s our equity, our risk. They will be working with us for a long time and we manage the asset.

A lot of the value of energy storage technology is just beginning to be realised, while we wouldn’t expect you to reveal numbers at this stage, can you give us an idea of the expectations that ECP might have?

JR: As you know, energy storage is a dispatched asset, if you don’t turn it on and off at the right time, it’s a paperweight. So, we’re there, managing the operations and the assets and that’s value for the long term. So that integrated value proposition is what ECP is investing in. We put the deal on the board and then we stay there for the process, creating value for the long term.

We think that’s the right model in this early stage. Five to 10 years from now, pieces of that will get commoditised, just like in solar or anything else. But right now, to be integrated is extremely important to project success.

What I can tell you on the numbers front is that this is a relatively small transaction for ECP. They’re a multi-billion dollar fund. Last year they took Calpine private. Buying a 70MW operating pipeline and then a bunch of future prospects, is not their typical sized transaction but the reason they did it and spent so much time working on us – this deal took a while to put together – we got engaged with them early last year.

They see exactly what you’re saying, they see that growth, they see the potential to put hundreds of millions of dollars into this company in the next three to five years or whatever the time period is. That’s why they’re investing, because they believe in the growth and they believe they’ll have a place to put that money.

What technologies go into your projects?

JR: We’re a technology-neutral developer. We have everything in our portfolio from six-minute flywheels to six-hour, lead-acid batteries. We didn’t do that, just for that tax break by the way, that’s just how that ended up.

The primary stuff that we’re building now are two- to four-hour lithium-ion batteries, and we typically buy those through large integrators. So we’re not an integrator ourselves, we’ll contract with a GE, an IHI, a Lockheed Martin or Mitsubishi or, whomever the integrator is to put together the AC-DC system and we’re purposing that from the integrator.

We manage the construction typically, so in the EPC equation… we do the C and purchase the E and the P! 

We’re the largest owner-operator of flywheels in the world, by far, we’ve 45MW of flywheels in our portfolio, so we’re very comfortable with that technology.

Do you see a lot of flywheels happening these days? We’ve not reported on many in the past couple of years at all, although we’re aware that the technology has again advanced, with Ambri touting a four-hour duration flywheel recently.

JR: I will never say, no, or claim it would never happen again but I think it’s pretty clear now if you’re building an asset now it’ll be lithium-ion to do frequency regulation. Then again, if you had asked me a couple of years if we would be owning flywheels in our portfolio we’d say no, but here we are, and we love them, they’re great. 

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NantEnergy, Alfen, celebrate commercial battery-plus-solar installs in US and Europe

Energy-Storage.news received information last week on a handful of successful battery installations at commercial customer sites, from NantEnergy in the US and from Alfen in Europe.

The Netherlands-headquartered system integrator and technology provider Alfen has supplied a 2.5MWh battery energy storage system to the headquarters of Smappee, the energy management technology company which recently struck a deal to roll out its EV smart charging solutions globally.

Smappee, which claims to have already deployed over 70,000 EV charge units, is building a cleantech hub at its headquarters in Harelbeke, Belgium, dubbed ‘Snowball’. It includes an energy laboratory, housing a cleantech accelerator programme and flexible office space for cleantech companies including startups. The offices and facilities will be powered by a combination of different renewable and energy-efficient solutions.

Alfen’s energy storage system will enable Snowball to effectively self-consume solar energy generated onsite and to balance the load – including electric vehicle charging and grid-balancing services. At a future date, off-grid or islanding capabilities could be added, Smappee CEO Stefan Grosjean said. Alfen also created a new 5MVA grid connection at the Smappee site to connect with the local distribution grid, as well as delivering complete, integrated storage solution.

Energy costs savings, backup capabilities drive value for US customers

From the US meanwhile, NantEnergy, which towards the end of 2018 acquired the energy systems and services business of Japanese technology provider Sharp, has touted a recent track record of successfully executed projects for C&I customers in the US states of California and New Mexico.

Sharp’s SmartStorage platform, which NantEnergy acquired, has been used in a few high profile commercial projects in the US, with Jigar Shah’s Generate Capital among the developers and financiers to use them to deliver energy costs savings – and sometimes backup power – to customers.

NantEnergy claims around 25% savings on demand charges can be made on average. Demand charges in the US are levied on commercial and industrial energy users and ensure that they pay a premium for energy drawn from the electrical grid at peak times each month. Overall, these charges can amount to as much 50% of a business’ total energy costs. In California alone, demand charges have gone up as much as 64% in the past five years.

Typically paired with solar panels, NantEnergy said that in addition to giving customers a “reliable, independent source of clean energy”, often a reduction in peak demand over time will mean that C&I customers can become eligible for paying lower rates from the utility directly, increasing the value of savings from the “storage systems and advanced battery technology” the company said it offers.

Claiming to have executed more than 12 projects in California and New Mexico, which could save those businesses a combined US$3.6 million on their energy bills over 10 years, the company provided quick case study details on three such projects:

New Mexico: A herbal supplement supplier in Albuquerque will save US$50,000 in the first year of operation of a 120kW / 162kWh SmartStorage system, combined with 264kW of solar PV. The customer’s overall utility bill reduction will be about 27%, NantEnergy claims.

California: A speciality mushroom grower installed a 1.04MW rooftop PV system through developer Revel Energy, paired with NantEnergy’s SmartStorage (300kW / 405kWh) at a facility in San Marcos, California. The mushroom processing plant could save more than US$200,000 a year on energy bills as a result.

California: Providing a different kind value, a municipal installation for the Californian City of Del Mar of a 30kW / 121.5kWh energy storage system will be a source of backup power and provide resiliency to the local community in case of grid outages. Also coupled with a solar PV installation, the project will also serve the purpose of reducing demand charges at the site.

Interest in energy storage for the C&I sector begins to grow, with the likes of Aggreko offering rented energy storage systems as a service, and developer Convergent Energy + Power bought up last week by Energy Capital Partners.

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Tough to build a software-only ESS business, battery system integrators argue

While software has been described by many as the single most important aspect of how an energy network integrates, manages and then uses energy storage, two industry heavyweights have said that selling software licensing alone was not a viable business model for them.

Rolling out the controls and management software by itself is a perilous business proposition, according to Karim Wazni, MD of Aggreko Microgrids and Storage (formerly Younicos until it was bought out and became part of rental energy solutions group Aggreko).

Having deployed 220MW of battery storage projects worldwide to date across nearly 50 projects, many of which it worked on as a full system integrator including hardware and software provision, Aggreko M&SS-Younicos had found that the value of the software alone could not be divorced from the overall aims of the project.

“It’s [software is] only valuable if you can package it in a system that delivers benefits that the customer can measure. I think it’s been challenging to prove a profitable business model based on software licensing,” Wazni said.

“So, it’s through the realisation of these benefits in a service model that we actually leverage the value of this software, so we’ve ported, we’ve included the software coming from Younicos and we’ve integrated [it] into our overall power management system, so we can then realise the benefits of the combination of thermal, storage and solar.”

Karim Wazni’s comments are taken from the video feature interview, below. 

Value is in the integrated offering

Andy Tang of the executive team at Greensmith Energy, also the target of a recent successful takeover bid by Wärtsilä, told Energy-Storage.news that he and his team also did not believe “that in this industry, there’s a strong case for a software-only business model”.

“As Greensmith we’ve tried that multiple times and I think the biggest challenge you run into as a software-only business is that the solution the customer is looking at is a system: it’s the total thing that’s working.”

A software problem, that’s on the software vendor. A hardware problem shouldn’t be, but because it’s viewed as a [total] system, the hardware problem becomes the responsibility of the software vendor. You don’t really have control over having specified the equipment and if you don’t have control over having the commercial relationship with the hardware equipment provider, you have no leverage to help fix the situation.”

In other words, it is not that the margins for selling software are too low, at least for these two companies. Andy Tang said it is “very much” a technical and practical decision to have dropped standalone software suite sales and licensing from its business model. Others in the space, such as the UK’s Moixa, have sought export opportunities for their behind-the-meter residential aggregation platforms to Japan, for example, with Moixa CTO Chris Wright recently claiming that the company’s Japanese hardware and system installation partners are delivering 10MWh of systems into the market every month.

That ‘virtual power plant’ effort uses Moixa’s GridShare software platform. Nonetheless, Greensmith’s customers which Andy Tang said include utilities and independent power producers (IPPs) in the US, demand not just reliability, but also “the so-called one throat to choke” if something goes wrong.

That makes it “really hard to separate out the software and just sell the software”. 

Certainly, there is high value attached to the software, even if it’s not easy to convert that into standalone sales. Both Wärtsilä and Aggreko have said that their acquisition targets software was central to their value proposition. Similarly, Enel bought out US project developer – and crucially, software specialist, Demand Energy at the beginning of 2017 through its Enel Green Power North America subsidiary. Also that year, Navigant Research analyst Alex Eller blogged for this site about the role energy storage system software will play in building the “grid of the future”. Navigant had found that in 2016, cumulative ESS software vendor revenues were at US$202.2 million but predicted a rise to as much as US$3.4 billion by 2025.

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Tough to build a software-only ESS business, battery system integrators argue

While software has been described by many as the single most important aspect of how an energy network integrates, manages and then uses energy storage, two industry heavyweights have said that selling software licensing alone was not a viable business model for them.

Rolling out the controls and management software by itself is a perilous business proposition, according to Karim Wazni, MD of Aggreko Microgrids and Storage (formerly Younicos until it was bought out and became part of rental energy solutions group Aggreko).

Having deployed 220MW of battery storage projects worldwide to date across nearly 50 projects, many of which it worked on as a full system integrator including hardware and software provision, Aggreko M&SS-Younicos had found that the value of the software alone could not be divorced from the overall aims of the project.

“It’s [software is] only valuable if you can package it in a system that delivers benefits that the customer can measure. I think it’s been challenging to prove a profitable business model based on software licensing,” Wazni said.

“So, it’s through the realisation of these benefits in a service model that we actually leverage the value of this software, so we’ve ported, we’ve included the software coming from Younicos and we’ve integrated [it] into our overall power management system, so we can then realise the benefits of the combination of thermal, storage and solar.”

Karim Wazni’s comments are taken from the video feature interview, below. 

Value is in the integrated offering

Andy Tang of the executive team at Greensmith Energy, also the target of a recent successful takeover bid by Wärtsilä, told Energy-Storage.news that he and his team also did not believe “that in this industry, there’s a strong case for a software-only business model”.

“As Greensmith we’ve tried that multiple times and I think the biggest challenge you run into as a software-only business is that the solution the customer is looking at is a system: it’s the total thing that’s working.”

A software problem, that’s on the software vendor. A hardware problem shouldn’t be, but because it’s viewed as a [total] system, the hardware problem becomes the responsibility of the software vendor. You don’t really have control over having specified the equipment and if you don’t have control over having the commercial relationship with the hardware equipment provider, you have no leverage to help fix the situation.”

In other words, it is not that the margins for selling software are too low, at least for these two companies. Andy Tang said it is “very much” a technical and practical decision to have dropped standalone software suite sales and licensing from its business model. Others in the space, such as the UK’s Moixa, have sought export opportunities for their behind-the-meter residential aggregation platforms to Japan, for example, with Moixa CTO Chris Wright recently claiming that the company’s Japanese hardware and system installation partners are delivering 10MWh of systems into the market every month.

That ‘virtual power plant’ effort uses Moixa’s GridShare software platform. Nonetheless, Greensmith’s customers which Andy Tang said include utilities and independent power producers (IPPs) in the US, demand not just reliability, but also “the so-called one throat to choke” if something goes wrong.

That makes it “really hard to separate out the software and just sell the software”. 

Certainly, there is high value attached to the software, even if it’s not easy to convert that into standalone sales. Both Wärtsilä and Aggreko have said that their acquisition targets software was central to their value proposition. Similarly, Enel bought out US project developer – and crucially, software specialist, Demand Energy at the beginning of 2017 through its Enel Green Power North America subsidiary. Also that year, Navigant Research analyst Alex Eller blogged for this site about the role energy storage system software will play in building the “grid of the future”. Navigant had found that in 2016, cumulative ESS software vendor revenues were at US$202.2 million but predicted a rise to as much as US$3.4 billion by 2025.

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ESS developer Convergent Energy + Power changes hands for ‘several hundred million’ dollars

Infrastructure investment firm Energy Capital Partners has acquired prolific ‘mid-range’ energy storage project developer Convergent Energy + Power in a deal worth ‘several hundred million dollars’.

The deal was announced yesterday morning. Convergent Energy + Power CEO Johannes Ritterhausen told Energy-Storage.news that unlike some of the recent mergers and acquisitions of promising energy storage companies by big players (Total acquiring Saft and then Go Electric, Wartsila-Greensmith et al), this one is a financial acquisition, not a strategic one.

“The management and the teams here are staying exactly the same, we’re just scaling up,” Ritterhausen said.

“It’s very different when you have a strategic acquisition, not a financial acquisition. This is a financial acquisition. ECP doesn’t have a storage team that they’re going to merge us with, we’re not being integrated inside of somebody else’s product line and platform. We are the platform, and we’re getting funding from them. We’re still an independent but now [also] fully-capitalised storage developer.”

Convergent has become known for executing commercial and industrial energy storage projects in the range of about 5MW to 25MW as well as other distributed storage project types to some extent. The company has been particularly prominent in the booming Ontario market, where Ritterhausen said some 50% or so of its projects have been so far. This includes 21MWh of potential projects with Shell New Energies in the Canadian Province

‘We wanted to put a lot of money into assets, they wanted to deploy a lot of money into an energy storage platform’

The overall market for energy storage remains relatively small, Ritterhausen said, pointing out that with the fairly modest 70MW of ESS it has deployed so far, Convergent is one of its biggest players in North America. Nonetheless, it is planning for huge growth in the market and wants to be poised to continue carving out market share.

“We had very supportive investors, but because of the size of our pipeline and the growth of our industry, we were looking for folks who would write larger and larger cheques, and so at the beginning of last year we started a process to identify who would be the sources of funding for our future growth. After running a comprehensive process we sort of arrived at Energy Capital Partners, which is energy targeted private equity fund that’s done US$19 billion over the past 15 years or so in the energy space in North America primarily. We wanted to put a lot of money into assets, they wanted to deploy a lot of money into an energy storage platform.”

The transaction was actually signed over in April 2019 but the two parties have held off from making the announcement until now. RItterhausen told Energy-Storage.news the investment is for “several hundred million dollars”, and that as well as the Convergent name and platform, ECP also gets its full pipeline including “opportunities that are either operating, in construction or contracted to be built.”

More to follow on this story…

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Georgia Power wants to own and operate 80MW of battery ESS to ‘maximise value of renewables’

Utility Georgia Power wants to own and operate 80MW of battery energy storage systems in its service area, building on the state’s early recent steps to investigate the value of storage both in front of and behind the electricity meter.

Georgia Power has just made a request to raise residential rates in order to invest in the state’s “energy future” by 7% next year, filed with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC). In doing so, the utility said it has already spent or committed “nearly US$18 billion… to strengthen the reliability and resiliency of the state’s electrical system and to comply with federal regulations”.

Environmental compliance plans, air and water quality issues, as well as extensive storm restoration efforts are all drivers for this investment, while the company is like other utilities, trying to create smarter energy plans for its customers, Georgia Power said. Its 2.6 million customers currently pay 16% below the national average for power and residential rates have actually fallen slightly since 2011, the company argued.

“The company will continue to invest in a diverse mix of energy resources, including renewable energy,” the release said, adding that Georgia Power has 1,500MW of renewable resources online and around the same amount again under development (+1600MW).

Georgia Power’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) spells out plans to have more than 4,750MW of renewable energy resources in its portfolio by the end of 2024, if approved by the PSC. According to the utility, battery energy storage systems (BESS) are “critical to maximising the value of renewable energy resources”.

“The company seeks this opportunity to demonstrate the deployment, integration, operation and grid optimisation of storage to gain valuable insight into how to maximise the value of storage for customers,” Georgia Power said, with the PSC expected to vote on the IRP plan on 16 July 2019.  

The state, its utilities and other entities have so far made just small steps to investigate the value of energy storage: in December 2014, Energy-Storage.news reported that the non-profit Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) was testing and evaluating a battery system paired with a 1MW solar array, then more recently in early 2018 Georgia Power helped create a net zero energy home solution with homebuilding company PulteGroup in a ‘smart neighbourhood’ using solar-plus-storage systems. In January 2019, we reported as local solar installer Creative Solar USA started up a community ‘bulk buy’ solar programme which included AC-coupled lithium-ion battery energy storage systems from Eguana Technologies in the solutions offered at an initial couple of dozen household sites.

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