Virtual power plant: Sunrun and OATI will provide grid stability, earn compensation from Hawaiian Electric for managing and dispatching networked home solar and battery-stored energy to the grid

Clean Technica, Sept 2019

Sunrun, the United States’ leading home solar, battery storage, and energy services company, announced last week that it intends to participate in Hawaiian Electric Company’s emerging grid services market by delivering electricity from a virtual power plant made up of home solar and batteries.

Sunrun Brightbox setup
Image Credit: Sunrun

The virtual power plant will deliver electricity to the Hawaiian Electric Company as part of an innovative Grid Services Purchase Agreement with Open Access Technology International (OATI) — the largest provider of software-as-a-service for grid operations in North America. Specifically, Sunrun will create one of the largest residential virtual power plants in the world by utilizing the clean energy stored in approximately 1,000 Sunrun Brightbox home battery systems to the electricity grid on the island of O’ahu.

The project will begin in 2020 and continue through to at least 2024. The virtual power plant will act as a traditional power plant in times of peak demand, sending electricity stored across hundreds of residential solar and storage systems to the island grid to smooth demand or to prevent potential power outages — safeguarding against blackouts and providing reliable, stable power to the island’s residents.

“This is a landmark moment for Sunrun, for Hawaii, and the future of energy in our country,” said Sunrun co-founder and CEO Lynn Jurich. “This program is a clear demonstration that rooftop solar and batteries are driving the creation of a more locally-powered energy system, and provide important value to customers, utilities, and the broader electricity grid.”

“We are excited to have Sunrun join with OATI to provide real-time aggregation of behind-the-meter solar and battery storage assets,” added Dr. Sasan Mokhtari, President and CEO of OATI. “Together, OATI and Sunrun will work cooperatively with Hawaiian Electric to bring Hawaii’s consumers a greener future and also exemplify how this new power system operations model can positively link utilities, grid service suppliers, and end customers.”

In the process of providing grid stability measures, Sunrun and OATI will earn compensation from Hawaiian Electric for managing and dispatching the networked home solar and battery-stored energy to the grid. This, therefore, opens up a new revenue stream for the two companies and similarly will see Sunrun Brightbox customers compensated through credits attached to their electricity bills.

“Home solar and batteries mean peace of mind for me and my family,” said Anthony Aalto, Sunrun’s first Brightbox battery customer on O’ahu. “I’m excited about the ability to extend the benefits of home solar systems to my entire community.”


Jeff Dahn Claims New Pouch Cells Could Be Good For 1 Million Miles

September 9th, 2019 by Steve Hanley 

Claims of battery breakthroughs are pretty common these days. Hundreds of laboratories with thousands of researchers are busy exploring ways of making batteries that are lighter, more powerful, and cheaper. Every time we write about a supposed new development, we add a cautionary reminder that most of them need to be taken with a grain of salt — or lithium, as the case may be.

Dahn pouch cell 1

Credit: Dahn et al. via JES

But when the claimant is Jeff Dahn, the world renowned battery guru at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, it’s time to prick up our ears and pay attention. Dahn and his team work primarily for Tesla these days after having been the primary researchers for 3M for a number of years.

In an article entitled “A Wide Range of Testing Results on an Excellent Lithium-Ion Cell Chemistry to be used as Benchmarks for New Battery Technologies” and published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society on September 6, Dahn and his colleagues report the development of a lithium ion pouch cell that “should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) and last at least two decades in grid energy storage.”

Unlike most scientific journals, JES makes the entire text available free of charge. So if you are interested in digging into the details, head on over to JES and read it for yourself. Lots of graphs, charts, and technical data for your enjoyment.

The first graph, featured above, is described as follows. “To capture the attention of the reader, Figure 1 compares long-term charge-discharge cycle performance of the cylindrical NMC/graphite cells (Sanyo UR18650E) tested by Ecker et al to some of the pouch cells in this work. Details of the cells used in this work will be given later, as will a full set of performance data. The 100% DOD cycling of the cells in the present work is far superior to that of the Sanyo cells even though the upper cutoff potential was 4.3 V compared to 4.2 V.”

Dahn pouch cell 2

Credit: Dahn et al., via JES

The second graph reproduced here is from the same report and focuses on long term storage such as might be used by utility companies. “Researchers and users of Li-ion cells should be aware that NMC/graphite cells of an appropriate design, to be described in this paper, can have longer storage lifetimes than LFP/graphite cells. Since NMC/graphite cells have much larger volumetric and specific energy densities than LFP/graphite cells, one does not need to make a trade-off between energy density and lifetime anymore.”

The Takeaway

The search for better batteries will continue unabated. 5 years from now, second graders will be building better battery cells than what Jeff Dahn and his team have created just now. Okay, 10 years, tops. The nattering nabobs of negativism in the fossil fuel and utility industries continue to pooh pooh the renewable energy revolution in much the same way King George III dismissed those upstart colonial revolutionaries in America more than 2 centuries ago.

People with a vested interest in the past have a hard time visualizing the future but they can no more hold back the parade of progress than King Canute could order the seas not to rise. The revolution is here. Those who seize the moment will prosper while those who don’t will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Note: Thanks to faithful CleanTechnica reader Collie Guy for informing me in no uncertain terms that Dalhousie University is in Halifax, Nova Scotia, not somewhere outside of that great city.