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1Energy helps Austin Energy plan storage system

1.5-MW battery system supports community solar

Rockville, MD (November 2, 2015) – Austin Energy is hiring 1Energy Systems as the systems integrator for a $3 million, 1.5-MW energy storage system, Dan Sowder, director of power systems integration at 1Energy, told Smart Grid Today – the leading independent, daily, professional news journal of the smart grid industry – recently. Smart Grid Today publisher Modern Markets Intelligence Inc. is sharing the story here, free of charge.

The municipal utility will use the system to provide grid-support services that make it easier to integrate a community solar project while maintaining grid reliability and power quality, Sowder said.

Grid-support services in the project include active power smoothing, circuit voltage management, energy shifting to improve circuit and system efficiency – and power factor correction, he added.

It will be one of the first energy storage systems tied to a community solar project in Texas and Austin Energy is set to work with PowerFin Texas Solar Projects to build the solar array. The storage system should be up and running in Q4 of next year, Sowder said.

Austin Energy's handling of the project shows the energy storage industry is at an important crossroads, he added. "Energy storage is at an inflection point between being an R&D asset where distribution utilities are learning about it and being an integrated grid asset where it is part of how utilities normally run the grid."

"There are a lot of things that drive that transition and Austin Energy has been really progressive in that way," Sowder said. "They structured the project in a way that is different from the typical R&D project: Before they picked the battery or the chemistry or the size, they hired us to do a rational, engineering-based study to determine what system they needed to achieve the outcomes they wanted.

"To date, most storage systems have been put in because utilities are experimenting with it."

"Conventional utility equipment is chosen based on engineering analysis and what the grid needs to be a reliable and efficient. This energy storage project is justified based on analytics and engineering – which is a big step forward.

QUOTABLE: Equipping utilities with the tools and techniques and services they need to understand the value of energy storage is absolutely going to be required to justify investment in storage over time. – Dan Sowder, director of power systems integration at 1Energy, in an interview

The Texas utility used the MESA (modular energy storage architecture) standard, too, Sowder said. "Projects for the most part over the last few years have been one-off, proprietary-type communications interfaces.

"Every battery is little different and you talk to them all differently. If you think about other grid equipment, it all uses standards. Utilities talk to all of a certain type of equipment the same way. That way they don't have to relearn and reengineer the communications interface with every piece of new equipment they get," he added.

Austin made the MESA standard a priority early in the project.

QUOTABLE: [MESA] … supports scalability, so that when they want to add another system, they don't have to reinvent the wheel. It might be a different vendor. It might be a different chemistry or different size, but they will talk to it the same way because of the MESA standard. – Sowder

Use of the MESA standard is "a sign of a maturing industry that is starting to really think about the customers' needs and not just the technology itself," Sowder said. "Standards primarily benefit the utility, and the industry is starting to coalesce around the MESA standard as a way the utility talks to storage.

"That's a huge thing. You don't see that in a nascent industry but rather in and industry that is ready for scalability, which is where storage is."

The system in Austin will use 1Enegy's intelligent controller (1E-IC) software, which most recently was deployed at Snohomish County Public Utility District in Washington, as energy storage system site manager, Sowder said.

"1E-IC interacts with the grid and the energy storage system so they all function together. It connects storage to the grid so that it can become an integral part of grid operations – as opposed to it being a separate, interconnected thing."

1Energy also has in-the-field fleet-management software called "Distributed Energy Resource Optimizer" (DERO).  The storage system in Austin will include a lithium-ion battery from Tesla and be built adjacent to a planned community solar farm, Austin Energy told the press recently.

The solar farm will let Austin Energy customers who cannot install solar panels on their roofs – due to upfront costs or because they live in apartments or homes covered by shade – subscribe to clean energy from the project, Sowder said. The Austin utility used the conceptual design study from Seattle-based 1Energy to gain city council approval for the project that 1Energy will guide, he added.

1Energy has worked with several other distribution utilities on energy storage projects inside utility substations that were quite similar to the Austin project, Sowder said. "They don't all call it community energy storage. Other utilities refer to the same thing as utility-scale storage or substation storage."

This story was originally published in Smart Grid Today (http://ow.ly/U9aN8) on October 22, 2015 and has been slightly edited for this format. To read more articles like this one, sign up for a Free Trial to Smart Grid Today.

ABOUT SMART GRID TODAY

Smart Grid Today, the publication of record for the smart grid industry since 2009, delivers daily, unbiased, comprehensive and original reporting on emerging trends, applications and policies driving the modern utility industry. Our signature format features highly concise and easy-to-understand news copy based on trusted reporting, exclusive interviews, informed analysis and strategic insights that our subscribers rely on to succeed every business day. Modern Markets Intelligence Inc publishes Smart Grid Today.

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