Smart Grid Today May 15, 2013
Strategy includes storage, microgrids, critical softwareMay 15, 2013 Greensmith Energy Management Systems has achieved over 9 MWh in installed and contracted energy storage capacity with customers in the US , Canada , and Australia. The "battery agnostic" technology company has been riding the swell of excess battery supply from Lithium Ion battery manufacturers in the wake of weak EV demand. Battery manufacturers are excited to see a growing market in stationary energy storage. This stance enables Greensmith to keep pace with the rapidly changing battery marketplace as the best technologies and cost structures change. Greensmith combines battery cells with third-party inverters and its proprietary control system, consisting of a high-powered CPU in each battery unit connected to server-based software. This control software is Greensmith's core intellectual property, providing units with the intelligent dispatch algorithms to optimize a customer's utility bill, or fill in gaps of intermittent renewable energy generation. "Greensmith provides customization with the cost-structure of a standardized product. Our battery-agnosticism enables customers to use whichever batteries are best for their application, and our sophisticated software system leverages local data to tailor energy storage dispatch; both on-site and across a fleet of devices." - John Jung, Greensmith CEO Upcoming projects include several Community Energy Storage-sized systems of 100 kW / 200 kWh for distribution-level interconnection, and two MW-scale projects in California . The latter, MW-scale projects represent a ten-fold increase in power capacity as compared to their installations in 2011, and a quadrupling of the energy capacity the company installed in 2012. To date, Greensmith has managed to keep a lean staff of just ten full time employees by leveraging contract labor at critical junctures and utilizing a highly scalable business model focused on software and systems integration. However, the company anticipates significant growth over the next 24 months as project sizes continue to increase and the energy storage markets continue to expand in response to higher renewable penetration and favorable market regulations such as California AB2514 and FERC 755, "Pay for Performance." About Greensmith Energy Management Systems Greensmith systems control distributed energy storage and its many applications, including renewable integration, EV charging, and ancillary services. With over twenty systems installed since its inception in 2008, Greensmith is a rapidly growing leader in utility and end-user solutions. The core product offering in the Greensmith solution is its proprietary Battery Operating System which provides battery monitoring, protection, and controls for deployment in a range of applications. Greensmith distributed energy storage systems are modular and battery agnostic, enabling home-size to utility-size systems with multiple battery manufacturers. For more information, please visit: http://www.greensmithenergy.com.
Forbes, February 26, 2013 Energy storage is often seen as the holy grail for the smart grid. Storage solves a lot of problems: it can enable utilities to vastly improve the efficiency of their distribution networks by storing and releasing energy where it is needed, thereby forestalling or eliminating the need for new investments in infrastructure; it can smooth the integration of thousands of megawatts of intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind; and it can facilitate widespread integration of electric vehicles into the power grid. It’s also being seen as increasingly necessary. In fact, just last week, the California Public Utilities Commission directed Southern California Edison to procure 50 megawatts of storage by 2021. Much more will likely be needed if California is to effectively reach its goal of 33% renewables by 2020. In power markets such as Germany and Australia which face high electric rates and increasing levels of renewables, storage is already coming into its own. And it can take many forms. Energy can be stored as water behind a dam, and compressed air in caves or artificial containers. It can even be stored in the form of elevated trains that release power as they descend. However, when most people think of storage, they think of batteries. I recently had a chance to talk to CEO John Jung of Greensmith – a small and growing start-up in the space. He thinks of batteries as well, but with a different twist. His goal is not to be a battery company, but to be a storage company. The difference, he says, is that there are many battery companies with different and competing technologies that can supply the physical hardware. Greensmith’s goal is to combine the hardware with software to provide a technology-agnostic storage solution. “We obsess over one thing and one thing only: how energy storage delivers value to the grid. We look at the problem more as a question of intelligent optimization with respect to grid assets. So this is really more of a software play.” Looked at that way, the essential question is to understand the cost structures associated with the wholesale power grid and distribution utilities, and optimize the interaction of the storage assets. That means that – in theory – the same battery assets can be utilized and optimized in different locations at different time to achieve different outcomes. In reality, Jung notes, that is already happening, and he has already redeployed the same assets to solve different storage problems. Greensmith has moved beyond the conceptual phase to serving “fourteen customers, including eight electric utilities.” These include Hawaiian Electric Company, Southern Company, and San Diego Gas and Electric . Some of the eight are in pilot phase, while others have moved into more full-scale deployment. The goal now is to further evolve from pilots into production, and Jung says that Greensmith has been selling mostly large, megawatt-scale projects over the last year. Greensmith’s storage solution has already been utilized to help address large scale penetration of solar in Southern California. “When you have up to 30 or 40% solar, without storage for firming, grid stability is increasingly going to be an issue.“ In Honolulu, Jung notes they integrated a solar array and a Level 2 electric vehicle charging station. His long-term hope is that his company’s software will help connect energy storage into the ‘internet of things.’ “Ultimately, we look at this in the long run as being an interconnected and orchestrated fleet of communicating batteries.” The Greensmith technology stack has three layers: 1) A programmable CPU that represents a brain telling the assets how to deliver the most value. As market conditions change, this CPU can be accessed and re-programmed remotely on cloud-based software. 2) A rich data analytic layer which manages the health, safety, and longevity of the battery assets. This ensures the batteries are equal to the tasks assigned to them in terms of performance and safety, and collects all historical data on battery operation and battery health. 3) Centralized fleet control management. This allows the storage fleet to respond to the changing nature of the dynamic grid. The more variables there are in the storage equation, the more complex this aspect becomes. The technology-agnostic piece is critical to Greensmith’s approach. It allows them to continue to upgrade the hardware, so that if a new battery or inverter comes out, they can quickly exploit its capabilities. To stay on top of these changes, they are constantly in dialogue with a number of battery and inverter companies. The main thing they focus on is constantly improving the software, “It’s an operating system platform which allows us to bring in the best components over time.” Jung notes that they feel very free to mix and match the best technologies. “We recently competed for a multi-megawatt project against a multinational battery manufacturer and an inverter company. We won the award, and turned around and utilized their hardware.” Currently the company employs only 20 individuals, but they are in the midst of an additional growth funding round to facilitate further growth. “We’ve installed 20 separate systems since 2008. Because we are the software, we’re not the capital-intensive side of the business. And we can turn these projects around fast. We completed a recent utility-scale system within seven months.” What about cost? Jung says that the company has been supplying turn-key projects for less than $1,000 per kWh since 2008, thanks to “blue collar” batteries. And what about the integration of electric and transportation infrastructures? I asked Jung where he saw that intersection evolving. “We believe the equation is not monopolized by energy storage, but by how the assets talk to one another. Once you get a critical mass of electric vehicles, an algorithm could help the aggregator optimize those assets. It’s really not a difficult computing problem. And it’s not Jules Verne stuff. By leveraging our current platform with fleet management abilities, my team could turn out a software solution for V2G in a few months.” Jung is highly optimistic that Greensmith is on to something. With rapidly evolving battery technologies, it’s essential not to be tied down to one technology. They can take a storage technology used for grid stability one day and re-purpose it the next for electric vehicle charging. From the customer’s point of view, Jung sees that as a real advantage. “Component technologies may change, but the customer still needs a single, trusted technology partner to stand behind installed and future systems.”
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