Advanced Manufacturing Powered with Solar & Storage

Advanced Manufacturing Powered with Solar & Storage

Advanced Manufacturing Powered with Solar & Storage

By: Eric Johnson, Writer, Ideal Energy

Ideal Energy develops ground breaking solar + storage project for leading Iowa manufacturer Agri-Industrial Plastics Company

Agri-Industrial Plastics Company (AIP), a leading manufacturer of blow molded plastic parts, will soon begin construction of a 517 killowatt (kW) solar array supplemented by a battery energy storage system at its facility in Fairfield, Iowa. This is the first solar project in the Midwest to incorporate an industrial lithium-ion battery system. It is also the first solar + battery energy storage system implemented by a large manufacturer in Iowa.

Lori Schaefer-Weaton, president of AIP, said the decision was motivated by a desire to control the company’s high utility costs. “I’m an accountant so I like to talk about ROI,” said Schaefer-Weaton, referring to return-on-investment. “The ROI is there.”

The solar + storage system will save the company over $42,000 per year and pave the way for additional growth. The installation will also prevent 9,377 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere over the next 25 years – equivalent to over 10 million pounds of coal.

Why Solar + Storage?

Solar panels alone are a great fit for many businesses, but not all customers can benefit from them. Manufacturers running energy-intensive machinery at night, for example, require a more advanced solution to manage their power needs. Battery storage can provide that solution by extending the usefulness of solar energy.

Battery energy storage systems are more than just batteries. They are at the cutting of edge of the renewable energy industry. Battery storage can be used for emergency backup, off-grid homes, and more, but its most important application is peak shaving.

Peak shaving cuts expensive demand charges by reducing electricity consumption during peak usage times like summer afternoons. Not all electric users have demand charges, but for businesses with demand charge tariffs, they can be very expensive. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), demand charges can account for 30% to 70% of a customer’s utility bill.

While solar arrays alone can help alleviate demand charges, they aren’t as effective as battery energy storage. Battery energy storage systems can guarantee that no power above a predetermined threshold will be drawn from the grid during peak times. They can automatically detect when power usage exceeds a predetermined threshold and switch from the grid or solar panels to batteries until the additional demand is over. When demand goes back down, the batteries recharge.

Solar + storage is the best way to peak shave. Although peak shaving can be implemented by other means – for example, with diesel generators or by manually powering off certain machines at certain times – those methods have significant downsides. Diesel generators are expensive, loud, and generate pollution. Turning off machinery manually is inconvenient and may not be possible for many customers. Battery energy storage has fewer downsides than these alternatives. It also makes solar viable for more customers, which in turn generates additional solar savings not related to demand charges.

High demand charges?

Work with an Ideal Energy expert to discover how battery energy storage systems can help.

Solar: a Challenge – and Opportunity – for Manufacturers

Manufacturing is energy intensive. The extrusion blow molding machines at AIP use a substantial amount of electricity and cannot easily be powered down when not in use. As a result, it makes sense to run those machines constantly. “We run 27 lines 24 hours a day,” Schaefer-Weaton said. “These are huge utility bills.”

Above: President Lori Schaefer-Weaton tours a a group of students around AIP’s advanced manufacturing facility Below: Robotics at work.

Manufacturers have a very different load profile than schools or office buildings. They experience daily spikes rather than the seasonal spikes that are common in buildings where electricity usage is dominated by air conditioning. In AIP’s case, there is a predictable spike in energy usage towards the end of each of the three daily shifts when workers are busy finishing their assigned tasks.

Businesses like AIP that run 24 hours a day also have consistent load profiles. Because AIP runs three shifts its power usage stays high, even at night. Solar alone works best for businesses that use more power during the day. Battery energy storage systems extend the usefulness of solar panels by allowing 24-hour operations to maximize the potential of their daytime solar generation.

Lithium-ion batteries, provide the ideal solution for manufacturers. Compared to most other types of batteries, they are lighter and smaller per kilowatt-hour, can operate at a lower state of charge, and are better suited to high cycling applications. Lithium-ion batteries are ideal for daily cycling and have a lifetime of 5000 charge-discharge cycles. This makes the technology a perfect fit for manufacturers.

At the Cutting Edge


Ideal Energy, one of Iowa’s leading solar energy firms, is designing and building the array and installing the battery system. Ideal Energy installed the first solar + storage system in the state for Coralville retailer Stuff Etc and has been a pioneer in the battery energy storage field in the Midwest.

Ideal Energy continues to blaze a trail with this project. Agri-Industrial Plastics Company will be the first manufacturer in Iowa with a battery energy storage system. This project will also be the first large-scale commercial lithium-ion storage installation in the Midwest.

Recognizing the cutting edge nature of the project and the potential of solar + storage in Iowa, the Iowa Economic Development Association (IEDA) awarded a $200,000 research grant to the Fairfield Economic Development Association (FEDA) to study the AIP installation as well as another large-scale solar + storage installation Ideal Energy is building for Maharishi University of Management. These are Iowa’s largest solar + storage projects and among the most innovative renewable energy projects in the Midwest.

At A Glance:

Agri-Industrial Plastics Solar + Storage Power Plant


  • IOWA’S FIRST SOLAR+STORAGE PROJECT FOR A MANUFACTURING OPERATION
  • 517 KW SOLAR WITH LITHIUM-ION BATTERY ENERGY STORAGE
  • REDUCING PEAK DEMAND ELECTRICAL CHARGES
  • SITE OF IOWA’S FIRST STATE-FUNDED ENERGY STORAGE RESEARCH PROJECT

Manufacturing is Iowa’s largest industry – larger even than agriculture. AIP’s installation has implications statewide. According to the (spell out what NREL stands for) NREL, Iowa has among the highest demand charges in the nation and is in the top 10 states with the most commercial customers paying demand charges over $20/kW. NREL research shows that Iowa may have 23,000 or more customers who could benefit from solar + battery energy storage technology.

“Battery storage is a huge leap towards energy abundance,” said Troy Van Beek, founder and CEO of Ideal Energy. “It’s generating tremendous savings, which drives business growth, economic growth, and job growth. Our goal is to become our customers’ energy partner so they’re in charge of their energy use and they control their energy costs. Storage is a big part of that. We’re continuing to push the envelope to see what storage can do for our customers. There’s great potential here.”

Above: A rendering of the 517 kW array, at Agri-Industrial Plastics. Construction will begin late autumn, 2018.

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Ideal Energy receives a $200,000 state grant for solar + storage research

Ideal Energy receives a $200,000 state grant for solar + storage research

Ideal Energy receives a $200,000 state grant for energy storage research

The Ideal Newsroom | 10.2.2018

FAIRFIELD, Iowa, (October 2nd, 2018) – The Fairfield Economic Development Association (FEDA) has facilitated a $200,000 research grant for Ideal Energy, a local solar company and industry leader, to further renewable energy efforts and growth in Iowa. The grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) will be used to evaluate the performance of the first large-scale solar plus battery storage installations in the state. The two installations, located in Fairfield at Agri-Industrial Plastics Company and Maharishi University of Management, are Iowa’s largest solar plus storage projects and are among the most innovative renewable energy projects in the Midwest.

Two of Ideal energy’s installations, located in Fairfield at Agri-Industrial Plastics Company and Maharishi University of Management, are Iowa’s largest solar plus storage projects and are among the most innovative renewable energy projects in the Midwest.

“We are thrilled with how this grant has come together, thanks to strong leadership from the partners behind these installations,” said Joshua Laraby, executive director for FEDA. “The research will help business and industry in Iowa lower their energy costs and increase their competitiveness.”

FEDA is sponsoring the study and will partner with Ideal Energy to carry out the research. Known as the Fairfield Energy Storage System Demonstration, the study will compare the different approaches used in each project and evaluate the return on investment, operation and maintenance considerations, battery performance and effectiveness of solar tracking. Additionally, the study will analyze job creation opportunities related to the growing storage market over the course of 18 months. Iowa State University’s (ISU) Electric Power Research Center is also partnering on the project.

“When I’m selling the state of Iowa to manufacturers around the world, I always mention our energy portfolio,” said Debi Durham, Director of IEDA. “It is surprising and differentiating that we can consistently, efficiently, and affordably meet the needs of a production-based economy with 40 percent renewable sources.”

The State of Iowa is a leader in renewable energy, thanks in-part to the Iowa Energy Plan released in December 2016. The Plan is a roadmap for maintaining the state’s momentum in the energy space and has been held up as a gold standard by industry experts. Iowa ranks second in the nation in wind generation and has a fast-growing solar energy market.

This research project has several implications for Iowa. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Iowa has among the highest demand charges in the nation, with many commercial customers paying demand charges over $20/kW. NREL research shows Iowa may have more than 23,000 customers who could benefit from solar plus battery energy storage.

This research also could provide a replicable template to increase business savings, bring solar to customers who otherwise would not be able to use it effectively and make Iowa even more nationally competitive. A state-level battery energy storage committee – formed in follow-up to the Energy Plan – will evaluate the findings of this research project and consider how to best apply lessons learned throughout Iowa.

High demand charges?

Work with an Ideal Energy expert to discover how battery energy storage systems can help.

Agri-Industrial Plastics Company

The installation at Agri-Industrial Plastics Company (AIP) will consist of a 517 kilowatt (kW) solar array with a lithium-ion battery energy storage system. This is the first large-scale commercial lithium-ion installation in Iowa.

The storage component uses lithium-ion batteries, which have a long lifespan and are ideal for daily cycling. AIP operates 27 production lines, 24 hours a day, which means intensified energy needs. The battery energy storage system will extend the usefulness of AIP’s solar array into the night, saving AIP more than $42,000 per year and facilitating future growth.

Maharishi Universtiy of Management

Maharishi University of Management (MUM) is installing a 1.1 megawatt (MW) solar array with a 1.1 MWH battery energy storage system. This is the largest solar plus battery storage project in Iowa. The project will bring MUM’s renewable energy share to nearly 40 percent and significantly reduce the University’s utility bills. Construction is expected to be complete by mid-November.

The installation will use an active tracking technology that allows solar panels to follow the sun’s movement across the sky, yielding up to 25 percent more energy than a fixed-tilt array. The tracking system features a vanadium flow battery which is DC coupled with the array for maximized efficiency. MUM’s solar array will generate one-third of the annual electricity needs of the University.

How Solar Plus Battery Storage Works

Battery energy storage systems are key to further technical advancement in the renewable energy industry. Batteries can be used for emergency backup, off-grid homes and more, but their most important application is peak shaving.

Peak shaving cuts expensive charges by reducing electricity consumption during peak usage times, such as summer afternoons. The charges may increase a customer’s electrical costs for the entire year and account for as much as 30 percent to 70 percent of a customer’s utility bill.

Battery energy storage systems automatically detect when power usage exceeds a predetermined threshold and switch from the grid or solar panels to batteries until the additional demand is over. When demand is lower the batteries recharge.

About Ideal Energy

Ideal Energy, based in Fairfield, is one of Iowa’s leading solar energy firms. Ideal will design and build the solar plus battery storage systems at Agri-Industrial Plastics and Maharishi University. Ideal Energy installed the first solar + battery storage system in the state for Coralville retailer Stuff Etc and has been a pioneer in battery energy storage in the Midwest.

Above: A 37.8 kW installation on the MUM campus, installed by Ideal Energy in 2015. Combined with the new 1.1 MW installation, these arrays enable the university to generate 40% of their power onsite.

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5 Energy Tips fo Fall

5 Energy Tips fo Fall

5 Energy Tips for Fall

The Ideal Guide to Fall Energy Optimization

Follow these simple tips from the Ideal Energy team to keep your energy world optimized as we begin a seasonal transition.

1.

ANNUAL CLEANING OF SOLAR PANELS

With no moving parts, solar requires very little maintenance. Rain usually clears off any dust, pollen, or light debris that may build up on the panel surface. To keep production high this fall, ensure your panels are free from larger debris like leaves and twigs.

If you have wifi monitoring installed with your solar, your dedicated Ideal Energy Operations & Maintenance team is watching your system remotely and will perform any corrective maintenance as require to keep things smooth sailing.

2.

MONITORING ENERGY PRODUCTION & CONSUMPTION

Intelligent solar-integrated monitoring software like Sense or TED allow you to compare solar production to energy consumption in real-time with an easy-to-use interface. Study your usage patterns overtime and identify unnecessary energy loads to maximize the value of your solar production.

If you haven’t installed an advanced energy monitor yet, the Ideal Energy Operations & Maintenance team is happy to assist.

3.

SHIFT HIGHER ENERGY LOADS TO DAYTIME

As a solar producer, your peak generation happens during daylight. Take advantage of your own, free power production by running appliances and recharging devices during the day instead of at night. Not at home during the day? Many modern household appliances like dishwashers and washing machines have timers to run cycles at certain times of the day.

4.

OPTIMIZE YOUR THERMOSTAT

According to the Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.

Consider upgrading to a smart, programmable thermostat like Nest or Ecobee. These thermostats learn what temperatures you like, then build an energy-saving schedule around your day, and automatically updates as the seasons change.

5.

LIGHTEN UP WITH LEDs

Thinking of holiday lighting for your home? Use LEDs for holiday illumination and lighten up your energy consumption.

LEDs are the most efficient lighting option available on the market today and are much safer than incandescent bulbs. Using LEDs for holiday lighting will reduce the amount of energy required during winter months when solar production is naturally lower. Because LEDs run much cooler than incandescent lights, there is a reduced risk of combustion, and the casings are made from durable epoxy instead of glass, which is more resistant to breakage.

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A new power dynamic for Taco John’s

A new power dynamic for Taco John’s

A new power dynamic for Taco John’s

Article & Video

“Not only are we saving money and it’s a great return on investment, but also we’ve discovered that our sales have increased.”

BILL CORRICK, OWNER/OPERATOR
TACO JOHN’S, FAIRFIELD, IA

Taco John’s now features a 110 kW solar array to the south and east of its 703 W. Burlington location in Fairfield, Iowa. After studying the financial case for solar energy, Owner Bill “Taco Bill” Corrick saw how significant the savings would be and decided to build an array next to the restaurant. Taco John’s in Fairfield is the first Taco John’s out of 400 nationwide, and one of very few quick service restaurants worldwide, to use solar energy. “There are a lot of positive things we can do,” Corrick said.

Over the next 25 years the array will provide significant energy cost savings while preventing around 1,905 metrics tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere – the equivalent of over two millions pounds of coal.

Left: Taco John’s is turning unsed land into productive revenue with a new solar installation sited on former railway land

Right: Taco John’s Owner/Operator Bill Corrick celebrates a transition to solar energy during an energizing ceremony.

The Taco John’s array is part of the Fairfield community’s ongoing success at repurposing unused industrial sites. Like the Fairfield Loop Trail, a historic freight line repurposed into 22 miles of recreational trails encircling the city, part of the land that the solar array now occupies was once a railroad grade. The old Rock Island Line used to run east of Taco John’s.

The Rock Island Line connected Fairfield to Washington and Eldon in 1871 and carried freight and passengers to Fairfield for over a 100 years. In 1980 the line was closed and in 1982 most of the track was removed. In 2014 the Fairfield Economic Development Association (FEDA) removed another stretch of track to the east of Taco John’s. Taco John’s bought the property from FEDA soon afterward. When the array is complete, a rail line that once carried coal will be generating clean solar energy.

Corrick said, “It makes good sense financially for Taco John’s customers by reducing operating costs, as well as globally for everyone by producing clean energy.”

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How 1.1 MW of Solar & Storage is Transforming this Iowa University

How 1.1 MW of Solar & Storage is Transforming this Iowa University

How 1.1 Megawatts of Solar and Storage is Transforming this Iowa University

By: Eric Johnson, Writer, Ideal Energy

Iowa’s pioneering solar energy company to design and build one the largest and most innovative solar + storage systems in the Midwest.

Ideal Energy is building one of Iowa’s largest solar arrays to serve the energy needs of Maharishi University of Management (MUM). The 1.1 megawatt array – over 200 times the size of a typical residential array – will cover 5 acres of land adjacent to campus. The project also includes a 1 megawatt-hour battery energy storage system – the largest system of its kind in the Midwest.

The solar array will generate enough power to provide about one-third of MUM’s annual electricity needs. In addition to those savings, the battery energy storage system will reduce the demand charge portion of MUM’s utility bill by around one-third. The system will yield significant savings over its lifespan.

Battery energy storage is the future of renewable energy

Battery energy storage systems (BESS) are at the cutting of edge of the renewable energy industry. BESS can be used for emergency backup, off-grid homes, and more. Their most important application, however, is extending the usefulness of solar energy by reducing demand charges, a technique called peak shaving.

Demand charges are triggered when a business’s electricity use exceeds a certain threshold during peak usage times like hot, summer days. Utilities charge more for electricity at these times because so many customers need power at the same time.

Demand charges can account for 30% to 70% of the cost of electricity for customers on demand charge utility tariffs. Solar arrays alone aren’t always enough to reduce or eliminate demand charges for these customers. A single cloudy day during a summer afternoon could cause a demand charge, and a single demand charge can increase a business’s base rate for the entire year, dramatically increasing the cost of electricity.

Peak shaving cuts demand charges by limiting electricity consumption from the grid during the peak usage times outlined above. Control software automatically detects when power usage exceeds a pre-programmed threshold and switches over to batteries until the extra demand is over. When demand is lower the batteries recharge.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Iowa is one of the 10 states with the most customers facing extremely high demand charges. At least 23,000 Iowa businesses pay $20 per kilowatt or more.

While this means many Iowa businesses pay a steep price for power and may not be well served by solar arrays alone, it also means many of those businesses could see huge cost savings with solar + storage systems like the one under construction at MUM.

High demand charges?

Work with an Ideal Energy expert to discover how battery energy storage systems can help.

Innovative design & cutting edge technology

Ideal Energy is installing several advanced technologies produced by NEXTracker, a San Francisco-based company with offices around the world. NEXTracker offers smart solar tracking systems, energy storage systems, and software that deliver performance not possible with standard solar arrays.

Two of NEXTracker’s products will be used in the MUM project: NX Flow and NX Horizon.

NX FLOW

NX Flow is a complete solar + storage system that integrates active solar tracking, battery energy storage, inverters, and software.

The core of the system is an advanced vanadium flow battery (VFB), called Avalon, that degrades very little over time even when fully discharged under extreme duty cycles. NEXTracker’s internal testing indicates zero degradation after 10 years of continuous cycling. The performance of VFBs stands in stark contrast to lithium-ion batteries, which degrade significantly over their lifespans and are sensitive to improper cycling.

Avalon is DC-coupled with the photovoltaic array, meaning it is linked to the direct current voltage flowing from the solar panel. This ensures high round-trip efficiency. The battery charges directly off the array, enabling the battery to capture “clipped” energy that would otherwise be lost.

Right: NX FLOW vanadium flow battery DC couples directy to the array

NX HORIZON

Ideal Energy is incorporating another sophisticated design element in the array: active tracking. Active tracking systems follow the Sun’s path across the sky, yielding 20-25% more energy than a fixed tilt array.

Ideal Energy is installing NEXTracker’s award-winning smart solar tracker, NX Horizon, for decentralized active tracking. NX Horizon is the number one tracker by worldwide market share with over 12 gigawatts of systems sold. With independent rows, high-slope tolerance, and rapid assembly features, the system is designed to minimize construction risk and keep projects on schedule.

Unlike some other active trackers, NX Horizon is decentralized. Each row of solar panels features its own motor and is remotely monitored by NEXTracker’s smart control software. Rows can move independently to find the best angle for maximum electricity production.

The MUM array will be the first system in the Midwest to combine active tracking and battery energy storage on a large scale.

Left: NX Horizon technology, Moree Solar Farm, Australia

Sustainability leadership in the Midwest

Maharishi University of Management has been a leader in sustainability for years. MUM was the first university in the U.S. to offer a degree program in sustainable living. In addition, MUM has built low-carbon footprint buildings, implemented composting and recycling programs, and committed to switching a significant portion of its energy use to renewable sources. The new solar array, along with two existing solar arrays and a wind turbine, will meet approximately 40% of MUM’s electricity production needs.

Ideal Energy has designed and built many of the largest and most advanced solar installations in the Midwest. Our portfolio includes multiple award-winning projects, the first net-zero manufacturing facility in Iowa, and the first solar + battery energy storage system in the state. The MUM project continues our decade-long record of innovation with one of the most cutting-edge installations in the Midwest.

MUM Solar Power plant At A Glance:


  • IOWA’S LARGEST SOLAR+STORAGE PROJECT
  • 1.1 MW SOLAR
  • 1 Mwh BATTERY STORAGE CAPACITY
  • OCCUPIES 5 ACRES OF LAND
  • PRODUCES 1/3 OF THE CAMPUS’S ELECTRICITY

  • Above: A 37.8 kW installation on the MUM campus, installed by Ideal Energy in 2015. Combined with the new 1.1 MW installation, these arrays enable the university to generate 40% of their power onsite.

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    How Battery Energy Storage Works

    How Battery Energy Storage Works

    How Battery Energy Storage Systems Work

    An Introduction to Advanced Battery Energy Storage Solutions

    Here at Ideal Energy we’re always looking ahead for ideas and technologies that can help us solve problems for our customers. One of those technologies is battery energy storage.

    Battery energy storage systems allows us to solve problems we couldn’t solve before. For example, by eliminating demand charges from a company’s utility bill or by providing reliable emergency power backup.

    This article is the first in a series discussing what battery energy storage is, how it works, and how it can help you in your home or business.

    What Is Battery Energy Storage?

    Battery energy storage systems are rechargeable battery systems that store energy from solar arrays or the electric grid and provide that energy to a home or business. Because they contain advanced technology that regular batteries do not, they can easily perform certain tasks that used to be difficult or impossible, such as peak shaving and load shifting.

    Battery Basics

    Step 1:
    CHARGE



    During daylight, the battery storage system is charged by clean electricity generated by solar.

    Step 2:
    OPTIMIZE



    Intelligent battery software uses algorithms to coordinate solar production, usage history, utility rate structures, and weather patterns to optimize when the stored energy is used.

    Step 3:
    DISCHARGE



    Energy is discharged from the battery storage system during times of high usage, reducing or eliminating costly demand charges.

    The idea of combining solar arrays and batteries is not new. Early solar pioneers often connected a series of marine deep cycle batteries to their solar arrays. Before net metering was widespread this was the only way to use stored solar energy at night. Modern battery energy storage systems are similar in concept, but much more sophisticated and powerful. If those old battery arrays were like flip phones, then modern battery energy storage systems are like the latest smartphone – they have the same primary function, but everything else is a world apart.

    Modern battery energy storage systems usually include a built-in inverter and computerized control systems. This means they’re all-in-one, turnkey systems that are simple to install, largely maintenance-free, and don’t require any effort or expertise from the owner. They’re also weatherproof and safe for people and pets.

    Left: Stuff Etc. made history in 2016 when they installed Iowa’s first Solar Plus Storage project, located at their flagship store in Coralville, Iowa

    Applications – What Energy Storage Can Do

    Battery energy storage systems have a wide range of applications. Commercial applications include peak shaving, load shifting, emergency backup, and various grid services. Residential applications include self-consumption, off-grid homes, and emergency backup.

    Commercial Battery Energy Storage Applications

    PEAK SHAVING — In a commercial setting, the most important application of energy storage is peak shaving. For businesses on demand charge utility tariffs, between 30% and 70% of the utility bill may be made up of demand charges. Solar arrays alone aren’t always a sufficient solution for these businesses. Battery energy storage systems, however, can guarantee that no power above a predetermined threshold will be drawn from the grid during peak times. We’ll talk more about how solar + storage can eliminate demand charges and drop a commercial utility bill to near zero in an upcoming article.


    LOAD SHIFTING — Battery energy storage systems allow businesses to shift energy usage by charging batteries with solar energy or when electricity is cheapest and discharging batteries when it’s more expensive. This is particularly useful for businesses on rural electric cooperatives (RECs) or other utilities that don’t offer net metering on an annualized basis.


    EMERGENCY BACKUP — Like the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) under your desk or in your server room, battery energy storage systems can keep operations running during power outages.


    MICROGRIDS — Energy storage opens up the possibility of building microgrids in conjunction with renewable energy. The scalability and turnkey simplicity of battery energy storage make these systems economically viable. Islandable microgrids can be used in certain large commercial facilities – or even entire communities. The American Samoa island Ta’u, who switched from diesel generation to solar + storage, is a good example of this application.


    RENEWABLE INTEGRATION — Energy storage can smooth the output of renewable power generation sources. Solar produces cyclically – day vs. night, summer vs. winter. Energy storage allows solar energy production to mimic the consistency of fossil fuel energy sources.


    GRID SERVICES — For utility-scale customers, battery energy storage can provide a host of valuable applications, including reserve capacity, frequency regulation, and voltage control to the grid.

    Get specific answers about how battery energy storage systems can impact your utility bills.

    Residential Battery Energy Storage Applications



    SOLAR SELF-CONSUMPTION — For homeowners, solar self-consumption is the most important application of energy storage systems. Energy storage allows homeowners to store surplus energy produced by solar panels during the day and use it at night. This can be a great option for some customers on utilities that don’t offer net metering.


    OFF GRID — Batteries are necessary for a solar-powered off-grid home. Modern battery energy storage systems far exceed the capabilities of the marine lead-acid batteries used by pioneering solar DIYers in decades past. Modern systems are easier to install, easier to configure, more scalable, much cheaper per kWh of storage, and far safer.


    EMERGENCY BACKUP — Battery energy storage provides the peace of mind that comes with keeping the power on during an outage. Energy storage works with or without solar and is a safe and seamless alternative to small generators, which are one of the main contributors to carbon monoxide poisoning in America.

    Technology – What’s Inside

    Each energy storage unit contains several components: one or more battery modules, onboard sensors, control components, and an inverter. In DC coupled units, a separate inverter is used. In AC coupled units, the inverter is integrated into the system. These components make energy storage systems more than mere batteries.

    Multiple, swappable battery modules prevent an entire energy storage unit from going down if one battery module fails. The module can be swapped out for another with no downtime.

    Sensors ensure safe operation and allow for remote monitoring. Onboard sensors help maintain appropriate operating temperatures, watch for battery module failure, and report usage data to you and your energy company.

    Control components mean energy storage systems can be set up however they need to be to perform their intended job without any ongoing user intervention. For example, batteries can be configured to charge automatically when energy is cheapest and discharge automatically when it’s most expensive, or they can be configured to simply store energy in case of a power outage.

    Integrated inverters make installation easy and inexpensive. While DC coupled battery storage systems with separate inverters can be cheap, efficient, and good for off-grid homes, they offer much less flexibility than AC coupled units with integrated inverters. AC coupled units, like Tesla’s Powerwall 2, have more capabilities, work without solar arrays, and are easier to install. Modern systems simply plug into an existing power network.

    Best-in-class energy storage systems – like the ones we offer – have a few more key components: built-in cooling systems, weatherproof construction, and scalable architecture.

    Built-in cooling ensures optimal performance. Weatherproof construction means energy storage systems can be mounted outside without the added cost of protective structures. Scalable architecture means multiple energy storage units can be linked to form a larger system. Additional units can always be added later.

    Taken together, these components make battery energy storage systems safe, scalable, and cost-effective.

    Left: One of Ideal Energy’s top choice for energy storage solutions is NexTracker’s NX Flow energy storage system which combines battery, solar tracker, inverter, and software technologies to improve return on investment. At the core of the system lies an advanced vanadium flow battery (VFB), which is DC-coupled with the photovoltaic array.

    Opportunity – Transforming Our Energy Future

    We believe battery energy storage systems will radically transform the way we interact with energy. They’ll make solar energy a no-brainer for many more homes and businesses, bring greater independence from traditional utilities, and open the door to a great diversity of energy options.

    In the rest of this series, we’ll explore these opportunities in more depth. Next up is a discussion of peak shaving and demand charge reduction for businesses. If you want to find out how we cut our customers’ utility bills from around $9000/month to $20/month, stay tuned.

    Is solar and storage the right solution for you?

    Explore which advanced energy technologies provide you with the best ROI with our team of experts.

    Battery Energy Storage FAQ

    Does Battery Energy Storage Work Without Solar?


    Yes. You don’t need a solar array to take advantage of many of the benefits that these systems offer. Peak shaving, load shifting, and emergency backup are examples of applications that work just fine without a solar array. Of course, solar is required for off-grid homes, solar self-consumption, and renewable energy microgrids.

    Is Battery Energy Storage Safe?


    Yes. Modern battery energy storage systems are incredibly safe. They’re accredited to international safety standards and will operate safely even in extreme conditions. Unlike old flooded lead-acid batteries, these batteries don’t vent explosive hydrogen into the air. They’re designed to be water-resistant, dustproof, and tolerant of a wide range of temperatures. They can be mounted indoors or outside. There are no exposed wires or hot vents. They’re touch-safe and pet and kid friendly.

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