NantEnergy, Alfen, celebrate commercial battery-plus-solar installs in US and Europe

NantEnergy bought up Sharp's SmartStorage business towards the end of 2018. Image: Andy Colthorpe. received information last week on a handful of successful battery installations at commercial customer sites, from NantEnergy in the US and from Alfen in Europe.

The Netherlands-headquartered system integrator and technology provider Alfen has supplied a 2.5MWh battery energy storage system to the headquarters of Smappee, the energy management technology company which recently struck a deal to roll out its EV smart charging solutions globally.

Smappee, which claims to have already deployed over 70,000 EV charge units, is building a cleantech hub at its headquarters in Harelbeke, Belgium, dubbed ‘Snowball’. It includes an energy laboratory, housing a cleantech accelerator programme and flexible office space for cleantech companies including startups. The offices and facilities will be powered by a combination of different renewable and energy-efficient solutions.

Alfen’s energy storage system will enable Snowball to effectively self-consume solar energy generated onsite and to balance the load – including electric vehicle charging and grid-balancing services. At a future date, off-grid or islanding capabilities could be added, Smappee CEO Stefan Grosjean said. Alfen also created a new 5MVA grid connection at the Smappee site to connect with the local distribution grid, as well as delivering complete, integrated storage solution.

Energy costs savings, backup capabilities drive value for US customers

From the US meanwhile, NantEnergy, which towards the end of 2018 acquired the energy systems and services business of Japanese technology provider Sharp, has touted a recent track record of successfully executed projects for C&I customers in the US states of California and New Mexico.

Sharp’s SmartStorage platform, which NantEnergy acquired, has been used in a few high profile commercial projects in the US, with Jigar Shah’s Generate Capital among the developers and financiers to use them to deliver energy costs savings – and sometimes backup power – to customers.

NantEnergy claims around 25% savings on demand charges can be made on average. Demand charges in the US are levied on commercial and industrial energy users and ensure that they pay a premium for energy drawn from the electrical grid at peak times each month. Overall, these charges can amount to as much 50% of a business’ total energy costs. In California alone, demand charges have gone up as much as 64% in the past five years.

Typically paired with solar panels, NantEnergy said that in addition to giving customers a “reliable, independent source of clean energy”, often a reduction in peak demand over time will mean that C&I customers can become eligible for paying lower rates from the utility directly, increasing the value of savings from the “storage systems and advanced battery technology” the company said it offers.

Claiming to have executed more than 12 projects in California and New Mexico, which could save those businesses a combined US$3.6 million on their energy bills over 10 years, the company provided quick case study details on three such projects:

New Mexico: A herbal supplement supplier in Albuquerque will save US$50,000 in the first year of operation of a 120kW / 162kWh SmartStorage system, combined with 264kW of solar PV. The customer’s overall utility bill reduction will be about 27%, NantEnergy claims.

California: A speciality mushroom grower installed a 1.04MW rooftop PV system through developer Revel Energy, paired with NantEnergy’s SmartStorage (300kW / 405kWh) at a facility in San Marcos, California. The mushroom processing plant could save more than US$200,000 a year on energy bills as a result.

California: Providing a different kind value, a municipal installation for the Californian City of Del Mar of a 30kW / 121.5kWh energy storage system will be a source of backup power and provide resiliency to the local community in case of grid outages. Also coupled with a solar PV installation, the project will also serve the purpose of reducing demand charges at the site.

Interest in energy storage for the C&I sector begins to grow, with the likes of Aggreko offering rented energy storage systems as a service, and developer Convergent Energy + Power bought up last week by Energy Capital Partners.

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