ROUNDUP: FlexGen’s next-gen, Sonnen hails Italian VPP success, First microgrid on San Juan Islands

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FlexGen grid-scale battery storage project in Texas. Image: FlexGen.

10 March 2021: FlexGen appoints solar industry stalwarts as new CEO and CFO 

Energy storage technology company FlexGen has appointed two longstanding clean energy industry veterans as its new CEO and CFO.

The company, which started out in microgrids and UPS in various international geographies but is increasingly working on large-scale battery storage projects for developers and utilities based in the US, has hired Kelcy Pegler as its new CEO and Yann Brandt as its new chief financial officer.

Former CEO Josh Prueher recently left to become CFO at Broad Reach Power, a developer of battery storage projects in US markets including Texas, where his former company has already deployed a number of projects for customers and a few months ago announced a major deal with Chinese battery maker CATL to work on two large-scale projects of 110MW / 110MWh each in the state.

New CEO Pegler comes from an executive chairman role at SOFDESK, a solar, roofing and energy storage software company that just got sold to microinverter company Enphase Energy, having previously worked at residential solar installation company Roof Diagnostics Solar as CEO. That too was acquired by a bigger player, NRG Energy. CFO Brandt was last at Quick Mount PV, a solar hardware company and before that was Americas president at Conergy.

9 March 2021: Sonnen hits 500 mark in Italy’s VPP pilot

Sonnen, the German battery storage system company owned by fossil fuel giant Shell, said it now has more than 500 of its residential systems participating in Italy’s grid-balancing market hosted by transmission system operator Terna.

Terna launched its UVAM (Virtually Aggregated Mixed Units) pilot in late 2018 and has procured around 1,000MW each year in 2019 and 2020 of power which comes from residential and industrial behind-the-meter assets.

With 2021 auction results for participation expected to be announced soon, Sonnen said that its involvement in UVAM has leapt from around 150 systems in October 2020 to more than 500 today. The company said that it has several thousand more battery systems in Italy already that could enrol.

Sonnen claimed that according to statistics from the Politecnico di Milano, Sonnen and its local aggregation partner EGO are among the leading players in the UVAM market out of around 20 different participating groups. Other internationally renowned companies known to have had major awards through the auctions include Enel X and Next Kraftwerke — which was also recently acquired by Shell. Recent stats from transmission system operator Terna showed that the number of 'prosumers' – customers that produce and consume their own energy through technologies including solar paired with batteries – rose year-on-year by more than 11% in Italy from February 2020 to 2021. 

9 March 2021: Tiny islands off Washington coast get first solar-plus-storage microgrid 

Decatur Island, one of the tiny San Juan Islands which sit between the coast of Washington State and Vancouver Island, has got a microgrid which combines 500kW of solar PV with a 1MW / 2.6MWh battery storage system.

In what is planned to be the first of many projects of its type on the islands, which have few permanent inhabitants but are popular with visitors, subscribers to a local community solar programme paid for the solar portion while the battery storage was funded by a US$1 million grant from the Washington Department of Commerce’s Clean Energy Fund Grid Modernisation programme.

The community solar array has been running since 2018 but the battery and its integration with the microgrid was only recently finished and announced in mid-February by local utility provider Orcas Power and Light Co (OPALCO). The project offers many benefits including helping reduce demand from the mainland grid, especially at peak times and reducing charges for transmission use and deferring the need to replace expensive local submarine power cables. It also helps regulate voltage and offers some local backup power in the event of outages. A video taken by OPALCO showed that battery equipment from system integrator and manufacturer Powin Energy was used.  

“We’ll always be tied to the mainland to power our lives in San Juan County. But this microgrid is an important first step in our bigger plan to provide some local power during emergencies to keep essential services up and running for the health and safety of our island communities,” OPALCO general manager Foster Hildreth said.

OPALCO said that along with plans to build other community solar and storage microgrids, it also wants to install enough battery power to be able to support the charging of electric ferries that dock locally. 

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