Behind-the-meter battery players Stem Inc, Sunverge, tweak platforms for smart EV charge solutions

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Spain-headquartered EV charger company Wallbox’s Quasar bi-directional home charger solution. Image: Wallbox via Twitter.

Stem Inc and Sunverge, best known for providing battery and solar-plus-storage solutions for businesses and homes respectively, are partnering with companies in the electric vehicle (EV) sector. 

Stem Inc’s artificial intelligence-driven smart energy storage software platform, Athena, is being tried out by Pennsylvania truck leasing company Penske Truck Leasing in a pilot project in Ontario, California. 

Athena is typically used in battery storage systems for commercial and industrial (C&I) customers to cut their energy bills by reducing electricity use during their utility’s peak demand periods. Simultaneously, the batteries are also being put into utility programmes and wholesale market opportunities to provide monetised grid services. 

While Stem Inc has diversified a little from that offering already in moving into the front-of-meter solar-plus-storage space in key markets like Massachusetts, for Penske Truck Leasing, the company’s software platform will be used to optimise charging of heavy-duty trucks. 

In conjunction with a 350kW / 800kWh battery energy storage system (BESS), the Athena platform forecasts when electricity demand will spike at the Ontario truck charging site and draws on the battery, reducing grid electricity use. 

The pilot began in April and since then Penske’s peak energy consumption has been reduced by 40%, the truck company said yesterday in a press release. Stem Inc also specialises in finding various utility and local authority incentive programmes that its customers can enrol into. 

In this case Stem worked with Penske to optimise energy tariffs and secured funding from California’s Clean Air Resources Board (CARB), as well as from the state’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) scheme, which financially supports the adoption of low-emission solar and battery technologies. 

Penske leases over 350,000 vehicles from 1,300 sites around the world. The company’s vice president of facilities Sean Yentsch said that Penske has been pleased with the initial results of the pilot, and that work to evaluate expanding the use of the Athena platform and its AI technology continues. New charging positions equipped with supplemental battery storage will be established, Yentsch said. 

“The growth in demand for electric vehicles and fleet charging solutions will require smart energy storage to help optimise energy usage, support the grid, and help companies go electric,” Stem Inc CEO John Carrington said.

“The superior results of this EV project prove the unique role energy storage can play as a system integrator and the value of having a scalable, AI-powered services platform. For businesses, smart charging with energy storage can help to manage costs and electrical loads, while helping future-proof facilities against expensive upgrades. For utilities, smart energy storage can serve as a cost-effective solution for meeting the significant charging loads associated with fleet electrification.”

Since publicly listing on the New York Stock Exchange this April, Stem Inc has announced a handful of battery storage and solar-plus-storage in various locations around the US. The company reported a 339% increase in year-on-year quarterly revenues in Q2 2021, but also reported a significant net loss, which CEO Carrington said was largely attributable to the cost of going public, which involved a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Star Peak. 

Stem Inc has claimed there is huge potential for the company to stake a claim for a big share of the smart energy storage market, but that it is unlikely to turn a profit for a couple of years as it needs to scale up its operations and numbers of assets under contract alike. 

V2G, V2H and VPPs in Australia partnership

Meanwhile, a partnership has been formed in Australia to create vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) offerings, by automaker Nissan, energy retailer Simply Energy, EV charger manufacturer Wallbox and Sunverge .  

Sunverge, the San Francisco-headquartered provider of home battery energy storage systems has been an early pioneer of aggregating its systems together to form virtual power plants (VPPs), delivering such projects in territories including Canada, the US and Australia for several years. 

In a two-part in-depth interview with this site last year, Sunverge CEO Martin Milani said that having the software able to orchestrate battery storage systems, as well as other distributed energy resources (DERs) like solar PV systems and EV chargers, is just as important as the batteries themselves. Milani also said that customer acquisition for VPP programmes has been the Achilles heel — the challenge being to reach an aggregated capacity of resources that utilities and grid operators will find useful.   

In its new strategic partnership, which the company announced last week, Sunverge’s real-time distributed energy resources (DER) management platform will be paired with Nissan’s LEAF EVs and Wallbox’s bi-directional home EV charge station Quasar. The Sunverge platform will be used to control the EV charging as well as the batteries themselves.

The 40kWh lithium-ion battery packs in second generation Nissan LEAFs — perhaps that should be LEAVES — are roughly three times bigger than what might typically be found in a residential home battery storage system. Being able to aggregate those into VPPs could be a powerful resource for electricity utilities and retailers to manage their loads. Customers could also use the batteries to contribute to powering their homes.  

The partners will study how the integrated solution will be able to provide a range of services, including frequency regulation and response services, demand side management of electricity, peak load and base load energy supply. 

“The electrification of transportation along with electrification of homes and commercial buildings are two of the vital trends integral to decarbonising the world’s energy infrastructure,” Sunverge CEO Martin Milani said. 

“That effort will require expanded control, orchestration and aggregation of power from electric vehicles offering utilities a way to harness them as distributed energy resources. The grid can manage the proliferation of EVs more efficiently and reliably while aggregating and orchestrating EVs with other DERs offering multi-asset flexible load management and curtailment grid services making the grid smarter, cleaner, more reliable and resilient.”

Milani claimed the programme’s partners will realise “significant upstream gains possible from the integration and aggregation of these distributed EV resources”. Utilities and electricity retailers could “play a major and active role in the electrification of transportation” and market EV-friendly tariffs to customers as part of their integrated services, he said.   

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