Just purchased by Shell: sonnen provides virtual power plant and grid balancing services equivalent to two peaker plants, from home energy storage systems

https://cleantechnica.com/2019/02/15/shell-acquires-sonnen/ excerpt:

…The real secret sauce with sonnen is its ability to innovate beyond just the hardware. Building a smart energy storage appliance is neat and noteworthy, but sonnen has demonstrated its ability to innovate beyond the box and has shaken the foundations of the industry with its disruptive innovations in neighborhood energy storage and whole home energy storage that includes smart automation technology.

For example, when the system detects that a storm is rolling in, it automagically charges the battery up to full capacity, to give the homeowner as much power as possible in the event of a storm-induced power outage. If the power does go out, the system then automatically throttles down energy usage on non-essential circuits in the home to maximize the value of the stored energy for the homeowner.

The intelligence sonnen brings to the table is the true differentiator, with only Tesla competing on a similar level with its class-leading energy storage solutions. This innovation has led sonnen to stretch beyond the home, bundling its network of energy storage products into a virtual power plant that allows sonnen to move from playing with energy storage in the home to buying and selling grid services to large multinational grid operators.

After its early investment in the company last year, Shell clearly saw the writing on the wall for renewables and the potential that sonnen’s breakthrough solutions have in the flexible, dynamic electrical grid of tomorrow.

Shell has recently been on a tear, with investments in renewable wind energy through direct investments in offshore wind farmsjoining the Global Wind Energy Council, and partnering with wind startup Makani. It also jumped into electric vehicle charging with its acquisition of Greenlots and Europe’s giant NewMotion EV charging network.

The writing is on the wall that the world is on a course for disaster thanks to catastrophic climate change, and Shell is gearing up to not just talk about the transition away from fossil fuels, but to lead it.


Pearl Homes & sonnen Deliver The Sustainable Home Of The Future, Today, in Clean Technica

November 15th, 2018 by 

Residential energy storage leader sonnen is taking another step forward with its sonnenCommunity solution with the announcement of the Hunters Point – Pearl Homes Community and Marina in the small fishing village of Cortez, Florida.

The community is the second sonnenCommunity in the United States, following its 2,900 home installation in Arizona. The new installation in Manatee County, Florida takes the solution several steps forward in meaningful ways by partnering with the homebuilder from the outset to develop some of the most sustainable and energy efficient homes in the world.

The ‘Net-Zero-Plus and Climate-Positive’ community integrates sonnen’s energy storage products into 148 single family homes and 720 apartments for a combined solution that disrupts the way we have thought about in-home energy management by aggregating them into a unified community energy consumption, storage, and production unit. Combined, the units will have a storage capacity of 9 MWh and power of 7.2 MW.

This combined capacity is first utilized within the community as well as to the local utility. Discussions are underway to define the terms of the interconnect agreement and to define how the developer and utility will interact to maximize the benefits of the system to the environment, to those living in the community and to the utility.

We spoke with sonnen SVP and head of sonnen’s US operations Blake Richetta and President of Sarasota, Florida-based Pearl Homes Marshall Gobuty about the unique development and how they have partnered to break down barriers to design and build one of the most sustainable communities ever.

Energy Storage In Every Home

“Together with our partners at Pearl Homes and Google Home, we are effectively demonstrating the intersection between renewable energy, home automation and homebuilding, establishing a blueprint for the affordable clean energy home of the future,” Blake said in a statement about the community.

On the sonnen side of the equation, Blake said that sonnen’s team built a completely new offering that connects its sonnen eco energy storage unit with Google Home to offer up more home automation than a traditional energy storage solution does, but at a lower cost than its top of the line sonnen ecoLinx offering. “It’s the baby brother to ecoLinx. A broader marketplace will be served by this product,” Blake said.

The sonnenCommunity not only adds storage to each home in the development, it takes it a step further by letting them talk to each other, sharing power among themselves at rates that are lower than those at the local utility.

A Smarter Home

Adding connected intelligent storage isn’t all that this community has going for it but rather, it was a natural extension of the core ethos at Pearl Homes, which is pushing the envelope on building design to build the most sustainable homes ever. Marshall Gobuty shared with us that, “the world doesn’t need another block home builder,” and that he felt like the technologies available and the imperative to live more sustainably effectively mandated that he design better homes.

It took them four iterations of designing, testing and redesigning over the course of a few years to come up with the right design for Hunters Point, but they did it. The result is a development that goes “well beyond LEED platinum,” according to Marshall. To quantify it, the Green Building Council put in into, “a new level that they’re calling LEED platinum plus. It’s a new level where you’re trying to be net carbon neutral,” which is the objective for him at Hunters Point.

“The model really showcases a lot of the unique designs that no other homeowner has implemented,” starting with a smaller 750 square foot floor plan for some of the units. Marshall believes these will be attractive to retirees as well as Millennials looking to live an environmentally friendly, sustainable lifestyle. Going through multiple design iterations maximized the square footage for efficiency and functionality.

“In that 750 sq ft, it’s remarkable what you’re getting,” Marshall said. “The trade off is that you don’t mind that you’re getting a smaller footprint and the home builder can invest in other things.” Backup power, carbon neutral living, monthly savings on the energy bill from the solar plus storage solution, and more come to mind and resonate with their target customers.

Their desire for a carbon neutral home initially had them looking at rooftop solar, but after partnering with sonnen to assess the reality of the situation, they found that the heart of the solution was energy storage and management. Since then, the plan has been, “to harness the power, manage it and use it. Keep it on site.”

These homes are a different breed than anything else on the market. They represent a sustainable step-change into the future. The efficient, solar powered, self-sufficient home and neighborhoods of the future. They are much like the Tesla Model 3 that’s leading the electric transportation revolution compared to the BMW M3 that our parents enjoyed. Not only are they packed with more tech, and are more intuitive, more comfortable, and more fun, they’re also better for the planet.

Marshall is a dreamer, but one firmly grounded in the realities of business and technology. That combination led him to the realization that, “as humans, we’ve taken hundreds of years to damage the earth.” Unsatisfied with the inevitability of climate change unaddressed, he decided to take action. That action led him down the windy path of sustainable home building paired with clean tech solutions, much like the pairing of a fine wine and the right cheese or the recent fad of pairing beer with donuts.

He concluded that, “over the next 100 years, we can correct all the damage we’ve done,” and set out with a fierce determination to do his part, to do his best, to bring that dream into reality. “97% of the power you generate is yours. That’s an ownership question. That’s a pride question.” The inspirational words pour out of him as it overflowing from a never ending spring of positivity.

Looking To The Future

Experts agree that the future grid will be distributed, will be increasingly comprised of distributed renewable generation and supported by copious amounts of energy storage.

Developments like Hunters Point push the envelope as to what’s possible at the intersection of these technologies, and in the end, they support a more stable, cost effective grid for everyone. Blake shared that, “the main objective is to decarbonize the environment and the second objective is to reduce cost and optimize energy bills.”

Marshall showed off some of the early builds from the development to a large hotel builder and they were awestruck. “They stand there looking at the sonnen battery in amazement like a little pug dog looks at you with the twisted head,” Marshall said. “They’re like ‘this is amazing!’” I equate that to the EV smile.

It’s the time when people experience the convergence of so many of the technologies they hear about all working together at the same time. People are so used to being underwhelmed by products that are so overhyped by marketing and sales teams that when a product actually delivers – or exceeds – the claims, people are floored.

That’s how I felt when I first saw the sonnen ecoLinx at the Solar Power International show earlier this year. It is a product that stands by itself. Nothing else on the market comes close to matching the functionality it brings to the market in the home energy management space.

As you might expect, Marshall is not content to have just built a single world-changing home development. “We have aggressive plans over the next 6 years to make a material change in home building,” he said. The success of the Hunters Point development has stoked the flames of sustainable development in Marshall.

What’s perhaps the most impressive is that he is still filled with the child like wonder about the technologies and the innovations he and his team have rolled into the Hunters Point development. “In our lifetime, to see something like this happening is pretty shocking,” Marshall said. “It’s really something that the world hasn’t seen yet.”

Images courtesy sonnen and Pearl Homes

sonnen Edges Into The Grid Services Market In Germany, Clean Technica, December 11th, 2018 by 

sonnen and partner tiko Energy Solutions have received pre-qualification from the transmission system operator for the grid in Germany, TenneT, to leverage its existing distributed network of energy storage systems pooled into a virtual power plant to provide primary balancing power.

The new system will leverage sonnen’s existing network of individual residential energy storage systems as a distributed virtual power plant. The new contract stretches the utility of its residential energy storage systems beyond just providing the capability to store and distribute power to the home. The new capability will utilize the distributed network of sonnen batteries to compensate for fluctuations in grid power, in addition to other services the company is exploring.

“The ability of networked battery storages operating as a virtual power plant to stabilize the grid in the event of frequency fluctuations is another step on the way to a greater system integration of renewable energy,” said Lex Hartman, CEO of TenneT. System services that serve to stabilize the power supply would previously be provided mainly by conventional power plants. With the increasing share of renewable energies in electricity generation, renewables will need to take on a greater responsibility, Hartman said.

Hartman’s comments reveal both the extremely dynamic nature of distributed and centralized energy storage as well as the rapidly changing landscape of electricity on the grid. Utilities are increasingly open to exploring new partnerships to determine how new solutions like virtual power plants can solve the problems caused by other challenges on the grid like excessive daytime solar. Sending little bits of that power to thousands of homes for storage is preferable to grounding the power and can benefit everyone on the grid.

“As a young company, we are very proud to be writing energy history. In doing so, we are showing that our customers in Germany can assume all of the functions that were previously reserved for large power stations. They can create and store energy and also ensure the security of supply within the power grid. The shift from the old energy system with central power stations to a new distributed system with the people at its core, is finally coming about as a result,” said Jean-Baptiste Cornefert, Managing Director of sonnen eServices.

In sonnen’s case, the new solution bundles thousands of its residential energy storage units installed across Germany into a single negotiating unit that leverages the batteries independent capability to work together as a large units of up to 1 MW. These 1 MW units are then put onto the energy market for grid operators to bid on.

To validate the functionality and responsiveness of sonnen’s virtual power plant, sonnen’s 1 MW virtual blocks were put to the test, discharging a full MW of power to the grid and recharging the same amount back from the grid in under 30 seconds. sonnen’s system passed, qualifying the sonnen virtual battery to participate in what is called the primary operating reserve market.

The primary operating reserve is the amount of standby electricity generation the transmission system operator (TSO) must have on hand to bring online in the event of a power plant failure. It is generally defined by the total amount of power generated by the top two power plants in a defined region. The thinking is that if one power plant fails, it could cause another plant to fail and the primary operating reserve is designed to mitigate that worst case scenario. For a deeper dive, German think tank Fraunhofer IWES breaks the distinctions of the different reserve types and ancillary services in the German electricity markets down nicely.

sonnen’s virtual power plant in Germany can already rapidly balance the grid for short-term fluctuations in the power grid and maintain the grid frequency at 50 Hz. Both can be performed in a matter of seconds and without the need to startup any inefficient, expensive to operate and maintain peaker plants.

“We are proud of the fact that with sonnen we are now able to implement our virtual power plant technology. This is pioneering work for the German market; it means that energy storage systems are able to deliver the two-fold benefits of managing personal consumption while providing various services to the energy market. With sonnen, we have now been able to show, among other things, that it is also possible to provide primary balancing power in Germany by means of home energy storage systems,” says Fréderic Gastaldo, CEO of tiko Energy Solutions.

sonnen achieving pre-certification for its virtual power plant in Germany signals that grids around the world are looking for and finding new solutions to deliver low and no carbon electricity to customers as more and more renewables are added to the grid.

sonnen’s virtual power plant is notable as it does not require the installation of massive new grid infrastructure, but instead leverages the existing infrastructure that ties residential power systems together. sonnen has around 30,000 sonnenBatterie systems in Europe, each with a capacity between 6 to 16 kWh. The total network has a capacity of up to 300 MWh and the potential to supply around 120,000 households with electricity for one hour.