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sonnen, Stanford teaming on technology for consumer load, DER coordination platform

image credit: Photo 118900679 © Trong Nguyen | Dreamstime.com 

German battery maker sonnen is teaming with Stanford University’s Sustainable Systems Lab to test technology meant to be part of a platform for scalable and secure coordination of flexible consumer load and other distributed energy resources.

The Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary and the Sustainable Systems Lab, which is part of Stanford’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, plan to deploy sonnen’s intelligent energy storage hardware and load management software in 15 solar-powered homes in the Fremont, Calif., area, and in a commercial agricultural facility in El Nido, Calif. sonnen will help install its batteries and integrate them with the intelligent load controllers and power management algorithms being developed for an open-source and open-architecture platform called Powernet. sonnen and the Sustainable Systems Lab will work together to provide real-world data and conduct analysis and experiments that will help the development of Powernet. The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Network Optimized Distributed Energy Systems (NODES) is funding the deployment and operation of sonnen’s energy storage hardware and software. 

NODES provided Stanford with $3.5 million in 2015 to develop Powernet. To accomplish that, Stanford formed a group, also called Powernet, that includes Stanford; the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, which Stanford operates for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science; the University of Florida; Google; and the Navy. 

According to a fact sheet put out by NODES, the Powernet platform “will be based on the principle of connecting information networks to the power network” and use “a layered architecture that enables real-time coordination of centralized resources with millions of DERs by integrating embedded sensing and computing, power electronics, and networking with cloud computing.”

Powernet says it is developing “integrated hardware and software to aggregate and control local energy resources” and that its platform’s “layered architecture should enable networked neighborhoods by the thousands to be aggregated and participate in wholesale electricity markets as both buyers and sellers to keep the lights on at the lowest possible cost and offer services such as ramp following and regulation support.” It added that it’s working to make its system attractive and easy for consumers to use, as well as protective of their privacy

For consumers, the core of Powernet’s system will be the Home Hub, which, Powernet says, “will enable them to control their energy consumption, participate in aggregation services, save money and make the most of their home batteries, solar panels and other devices. The Home Hub also will help the broader electricity system operate reliably and at least cost by responding to changing system requirements and enabling the coordination of resources in homes to enable aggregate grid services.”

The Home Hub will be capable of networking with a home’s inverters and appliances and controlling power in the home via another device that Powernet is developing called the smart dimmer fuse, which is meant to replace circuit breakers. And it will keep in touch with the grid by communicating with a piece of technology that Powernet is working on called the Cloud Coordinator, which Powernet says, “will optimize net load for a given area and for each Home Hub within the area to minimize total cost or achieve coordination goals such as ramp following or regulation while maintaining reliable service.” In addition to communicating with homes, Powernet says, the Cloud Coordinator “will use signals from electric utilities and grid operators — regulation reserves, ramp rates, market prices, etc. — and grid data, such as voltage, frequency, and phase at distribution and transmission levels” to determine what actions to take.

Powernet was one of 12 projects that received a total of $33 million in NODES funding five years ago. NODES’ goal is to enable more than half the power on the grid to come from renewable sources and it said when it funded the projects that it hoped they would create a new approach to managing two-way power flow that would enable energy storage to help counteract the intermittency of renewable generation, thereby reducing carbon emissions and improving the grid’s efficiency while reducing the cost of operating it.

Another California project that NODES funded recently led to something bigger — a $39 million grant from the National Science Foundation to the University of California San Diego to build a first-of-its-kind testbed to better understand how to integrate DERs into the grid. The testbed will build on work funded by a three-year, $2.88 million grant NODES made to UCSD to have it develop coordination algorithms and software to enable flexible load and DERs to provide reliable frequency regulation services for the grid

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