US backup power solutions specialist Generac has embedded ‘Smart Grid Ready’ functionality into some of its products, leveraging its acquisition of distributed energy platform tech company Enbala.
Generac, best known for its home and light commercial gensets, added battery energy storage systems to its suite of products, launching the first iteration of its PWRcell home battery system at the beginning of 2020. The modular battery system is scalable from 8.6kWh energy capacity up to 34.2kWh with the addition of more units and the company claims that it is capable of backing whole home loads, unlike some competitor products.
With customers in many areas of the US worried about power outages and keen to maximise their use of renewable energy, Generac CFO York Ragen said there had been surging demand for the product range in the past few months when reporting the company’s Q2 2021 financial results in late July.
The company said earlier this week that it has now added the capabilities for PWRcell owners to be able to sell their energy back to the grid, offsetting their energy costs and enabling the batteries to be used in aggregated virtual power plants (VPPs) with other distributed energy resources like solar and electric vehicles (EVs). In doing so it has joined the ranks of other home battery providers like Tesla, sonnen, Enphase, Q Cells and several others that already offer such capabilities.
Generac signed an agreement to acquire Enbala in October 2020 and its Enbala Concerto distributed energy resource (DER) integration and real-time energy balancing platform. This has now been added to new Generac systems and the company said existing PWRcell and generator units can also be onboarded via firmware updates. Generac said that its battery systems will be able to function as backup as intended, but can now also be used to provide grid services or sell energy back to the grid, which could help offset the system owner’s energy costs.
Changing customer backup into transactive energy systems
Home batteries and other DERs have been used in various VPP programmes around the world already. However while there have been some significant contracts signed by the likes of residential solar-plus-storage provider Sunrun and specialist VPP companies like Swell Energy and Sunverge in the US, their uptake has been relatively limited.
This is partly due to the need to integrate a large volume of units in order to contribute meaningful capacity to a utility’s grid-balancing and peak management needs and also due to other factors like the difficulty of acquiring customers to participate and regulations which prevent their full multi-use capabilities from being unlocked.
This could be about to go much more mainstream with the introduction of FERC Order 841 and FERC Order 2222 through which federal regulator FERC commanded regional transmission organisations (RTOs) and independent system operators (ISOs) to remove barriers to entry into their wholesale electricity markets for distributed energy storage systems and for distributed energy resources more generally.
Meanwhile, Generac and other providers are increasingly finding that customers are first and foremost driven towards buying home energy storage for backup purposes, which means a device the home or business owner was going to buy anyway for one application becomes an asset for a whole range of others.