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Sonnen, Rocky Mountain Power to deploy 12.6MWh virtual power plant in Utah


Rapidly-globalising energy storage company Sonnen has teamed up with utility Rocky Mountain Power to take its virtual power plant concept to the US state of Utah.

Real estate company Wasatch Group, Sonnen and Rocky Mountain Power announced today that Soleil Lofts, an apartment complex of 600 homes in Herriman, Utah, will be equipped with 5MW of solar PV and a total of 12.6MWh of battery energy storage, aggregated together from individual units in each apartment.

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It has been billed as the US’ largest virtual power plant project so far, although Green Charge (now known as ENGIE Storage since its takeover by the European utility group ENGIE) has been working on a project in Brooklyn-Queens, New York, to mitigate peak demand on the grid using distributed storage that was originally touted to reach 13MWh when completed.

When it is completed by the end of December 2020, with residents set to start moving in this September, Sonnen’s Utah project is claimed to be the “largest fully installed and operational residential battery demand response solution in the United States”. Either way, both projects are certainly among the biggest that arguably can be termed VPPs announced so far, but if the concept proves successful, it’s possible much larger VPPs will be seen in the US too – Tesla’s South Australia VPP is mooted to aggregate together as many as 50,000 individual residential units over the four years that project is expected to last.

The Utah homes will be fitted with Sonnen’s Ecolinx energy storage units, which are available in 10kWh to 20kWh usable capacity sizes, in 2kWh incremental steps, with 8,000W (AC) continuous output.

Real estate co welcomes “all-electric community utilising solar and batteries”

“As the developer of Soleil Lofts, we started with the firm belief we could build a community that was solving the Salt Lake Valley’s serious air quality issues today and in the future,” Wasatch Group CEO Dell Loy Hansen said.

“That belief led us to partner with Rocky Mountain Power, Sonnen and (solar developer) Auric Energy for the development of an all-electric community utilising solar and batteries.”

Rocky Mountain Power will manage the batteries, including managing daily peak energy use and demand response which will benefit the electric grid, as well as using the Ecolinx units to provide backup in the event of outages.

Wasatch Group’s Dell Loy Hansen said that of all the battery systems the real estate company had looked at, Sonnen’s had provided the “safest, longest lasting battery which can deliver utility grid services for decades of operation.”

Led by CEO Christoph Ostermann from its German HQ and a recent acquisition target for Shell, Sonnen’s US presence is known as Sonnen Inc and headed up by CEO and Chairman Blake Richetta. Of the Utah development, Richetta claimed it could “provide a blueprint for the future of grid-optimised battery storage”.

Different market dynamic, same disruptive tech

One interesting dynamic is that in Germany in particular, Sonnen has become known as a disruptive force to displace the business models of utilities, launching its own SonnenCommunity energy supply business where customers can effectively trade their surplus solar with each other.

A while back, however, company CEO Christoph Ostermann told Energy-Storage.newsthat in the US, which is a much more regulated market, the company was keen to work closely with utilities to find ways to deploy its systems at scale. Meanwhile, Sonnen has also just appointed a new UK country director and a sales manager. The firm is, understands, also investigating promising markets in Asia after a successful launch in Australia.

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