Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Sunverge tries to keep grid active during Japanese earthquakes

Steve Rogerson
January 3, 2018

California-based Sunverge Energy has deployed dozens of energy storage units at geographically dispersed locations in Japan in a project that it hopes will keep power flowing during earthquakes.
The units have been deployed across the service territory of Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) and are being managed as a single virtual node on the grid.
The net aggregated power flow at the virtual node level is controlled through coordinated operations at the individual unit level based on the predicted load, PV generation and available storage capacity.
This project aims to demonstrate how centrally managed distributed resources on Japan's electric grid can help ensure greater reliability, an issue that has received widespread attention following the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011.
Connecting multiple separate storage units into a virtual power plant (VPP) managed by Sunverge's energy management platform provides the grid operator with an energy control system that adjusts within 15 minutes or less of major changes in demand.
The project, operated in cooperation with Mitsui, will demonstrate several use cases related to this reliability goal, including:

  • Site demand target: Maintain a target wattage reading at the individual meter level, dispatching power if the net load is greater than the target (that is load minus PV generation) or importing power if the net load is below the target.
  • Demand charge reduction: The Sunverge demand charge reduction algorithm will set a site demand target for the unit based on the forecasted load for the site, the forecasted PV for the site and the current battery stored energy. The resulting site demand target value protects the unit from energy depletion due to dispatch and from reaching maximum stored energy capacity using power imported from the grid.
  • VPP demand charge reduction: Similar to the single unit demand charge reduction use case, with the addition of certain operations performed in aggregate over multiple units rather than for an individual unit.
Sunverge's energy management platform provides the energy control system required for the operation of the VPP. By using an accurate energy management system, the VPP will function as an adjustment and supply source of the energy, addressing the demand for increased grid reliability.
VPPs have the backing of the government, which wants renewables to account for at least a fifth of Japan's power generation in 2030. The Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry has so far designated a total of ¥7bn in subsidies for VPP development in fiscal years 2016 to 2017.
"The ability to aggregate and manage distributed energy resources as a fleet and combining and managing a logical subset and grouping as a virtual nanogrid is increasingly important in order to make the grid more stable, resilient and dynamic," said Sunverge CEO Martin Milani. "When aggregated, renewables can contribute a significant portion of a country's energy generation without significant investment."
Founded in 2009, the company makes the Sunverge One, an integrated energy storage system, and the Sunverge Infinity, an energy management platform for third-party distributed energy resources. The One and Infinity increase energy reliability, strengthen the grid, and accelerate the adoption and integration of distributed renewable energy.
Investors in Sunverge include AGL, Southern Cross Renewable Energy Fund backed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and SB China Venture Capital, Mitsui, Siemens Venture Capital, Total Energy Ventures International and VisIR.