The Energy Storage Report 2024

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Texas community virtual power plant to use SolarEdge’s Energy Bank battery storage

Tenants of the Houston apartment block will be able to subscribe to benefit from the site’s solar as well as access its battery storage during blackouts. Image: PearlX / SolarEdge.

Texas households in rented accommodation will be able to subscribe to a solar-plus-storage virtual power plant (VPP) equipped with SolarEdge hardware and cloud-based software services.

The equipment will give tenants of an apartment block in Houston’s Montrose neighbourhood low-cost clean energy as well as resilient power in the event of grid outages and other causes of blackouts. 

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Meanwhile, power generated from solar PV and stored in SolarEdge battery energy storage system (BESS) units will be available for local utilities to pool and aggregate to support the grid, particularly during peak demand periods. 

Revenues earned from utilities’ use of the systems will also contribute furthering to lowering costs for the residential programme subscribers. 

Called Project TexFlex, it’s been launched by PearlX, a company which deploys community solar and storage at multi-family communities, in partnership with SolarEdge. 

Perhaps best known as a manufacturer of smart solar inverters and power optimisers with a high market share in the US residential market, SolarEdge has broadened its offerings in the past few years to encompass end-to-end clean energy solutions. 

That includes the SolarEdge Energy Bank home battery storage system, which was launched in October last year. Energy Bank will be used in Project TexFlex, along with SolarEdge’s Energy Hub inverter hardware and the company’s software for grid services, enabling what PearlX described as cloud-based, real-time aggregative control management and reporting of the distributed energy resource (DER) pool. 

The project is very small by standards of other virtual power plant aggregations starting to spring up around the US and the rest of the world — there are just 14 apartments in the Montrose apartment block — however, PearlX has signed an agreement with the block’s developer Moonlight Interests, to scale up the solution and offer it at other multi-family real estate properties in Texas. 

It is also one of the first projects of its kind in the state, and PearlX emphasised the role it could play in events such as last February’s Texas Winter Storm, when widespread power outages caused a major energy crisis amid freezing temperatures. 

PearlX also claimed that a “non-credit” based underwriting method it is using for such projects can expand tenant subscribers to access the benefits of solar and battery storage without adequate credit scores. This could unlock the market for lower and middle-income tenants in multi-family communities, the company said. 

“Mainstream solar and especially storage has traditionally been an amenity for the wealthy. If you don’t have good credit, you don’t have access. Credit is the ability to repay. Electricity is the ability to live,” PearlX CEO Michael Huerta said. 

“Payment for electricity we believe is the highest form of credit. When you look at the data, electric bills are paid before rent, cell phone bills, even car payments.”

PearlX and SolarEdge have created what could be a decentralised VPP model that could be widely replicable, the companies claimed, offering safeguards against failures of the grid and giving consumers cost-effective and reliable energy while accelerating Texas’ transition to clean energy. 

From there, it will be rolled out to California and several other US states later this year, the companies said. 

Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) partner on Project TexFlex will be Texas company Native Solar, with design and engineering support from SolarEdge. Interconnection is expected to be achieved with utility company CenterPoint Energy in the first quarter of this year. 

Virtual power plants being rolled out in multiple regions

Other recent and ongoing VPP projects and offerings reported on by in just the past few months include efforts in Australia, California, Hawaii, New York, Arizona, New England and the PJM Interconnection service area. 

These include:

Sunverge’s 0.55MW / 2.2MWh VPP aggregating home battery systems in Cecil County, Maryland, US, which will be the first of its kind to participate in PJM Interconnection wholesale market ancillary services.

Project Symphony in Western Australia, a VPP aggregating resources at 500 homes and businesses in a region with a high uptake of rooftop solar, supported with funding from the state’s government and national Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

US residential solar installer SunPower offering VPP enrolment to customers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Participants could earn “hundreds of dollars a year,” SunPower claimed. 

VPP specialist Swell Energy, which has more than 300MWh of contracts to deliver projects for utilities in Hawaii, New York and California, partnering with energy storage technology provider sonnen to establish a network of up to 45MWh of aggregated systems in Utah

US residential solar company Sunnova and distributed energy resource platform provider AutoGrid creating a scalable VPP solution for California community energy supplier Clean Power Alliance (CPA)

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