Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

California alliance shines light on smart solar power

Steve Rogerson
September 22, 2015
The SunSpec Alliance, solar provider SolarCity and Southern California Edison have started a $4m project to study and deploy communications for smart solar power.
SolarCity will install rooftop solar PV, batteries, controllable thermostats and smart inverters on 50 homes in the Southern California Edison territory. The team will demonstrate how smart energy homes, combining numerous distributed technologies, can be deployed and aggregated to advance the evolution of the electrical grid.
The SunSpec Alliance said it had signed a final grant agreement and received a $2m grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC), plus another $2m in match funding from industry partners. The $4m total will fund a study and field demonstration to investigate the application of interoperable smart inverters, solar PV and storage to enhance grid stability and enable higher penetration of distributed energy resources (DERs). Further the study will explore economic models enabled by solar plus storage that will drive rapid growth in the DER sector.
In addition to driving cost savings for residential customers, SolarCity intends to aggregate the portfolio of the 50 homes to provide distribution grid support as well as ancillary services into the wholesale market. SolarCity will use the data from the project to demonstrate the magnitude of benefits that these aggregated smart energy homes can offer to customers, the distribution grid and wholesale markets.
“We plan to demonstrate the magnitude of benefits that smart energy homes, made of numerous aggregated technologies, can offer to customers, the distribution grid and wholesale markets,” said Ryan Hanley, senior director of grid engineering at SolarCity. “We are pleased to partner with the SunSpec Alliance and its member companies on this important project.”
The project was selected in the CEC’s competitive bid process in response to a State of California’s programme opportunity notice.
“Smart distributed energy is here to stay,” said Tom Tansy, chairman of the SunSpec Alliance. “The combination of advanced inverters, solar PV and energy storage – bound together using open source standard communication protocols – will deliver an array of benefits to all Californians. This project is a wise investment that will decrease energy costs, improve grid infrastructure at lower cost and open up new opportunities across the energy industry. SunSpec members and partners are taking the lead in driving standards and showcasing DER value.”
The project team includes ten SunSpec Alliance member companies – ABB, Enphase, Ideal Power, Kaco, OSISoft, Outback, SMA, SolarCity, SolarEdge and Underwriter’s Laboratory – as well as strategic partners Olivine, Strategen and the University of California, San Diego.
“Before this cutting-edge technology is deployed to the grid, it will be exercised, tested and validated in our microgrid’s distributed energy incubator, part of one of the largest, most diversified portfolio of distributed energy resources in the world,” said Byron Washom, UC San Diego’s director of strategic energy initiatives. “Information technology is key to the smart grid. We are proud to help advance the testing of open standard SunSpec communication interfaces and improve California’s readiness to implement new CA Rule 21 changes.”
The SunSpec Alliance is a trade alliance of developers, manufacturers, researchers and service providers, together pursuing information and communications standards for the distributed energy industry.