GridPoint Gets Into Solar Integration With SMUD, ComEd

gridpoint logo GridPoint Gets Into Solar Integration With SMUD, ComEd

Smart grid software startup GridPoint said Wednesday that it is helping the Sacramento Municipal Utility District with a pressing problem – managing power from its customers’ rooftop solar panels.

The Arlington, Va.-based company has landed a contract to help theSacramento, Calif.-based municipal utility manage renewable powerintegration, energy storage and home energy management systems.

SMUD last week won $127.5 million from the Department of Energy tocarry out the project, which also includes deploying 600,000 smartmeters in its service territory. It’s one of 100 projects that receiveda piece of the $3.4 billion in DOE smart grid stimulus grants (see DOE’s $3.4B Smart Grid Grant Program: The Winners).

SMUD will be installing energy storage devices, solar panel invertersystems and "consumer control concepts in a residential solar communityin Rancho Cordova, Calif.," GridPoint said. Everything will be linkedwith the utility’s smart meters, to be provided by Landis+Gyr and networked by Silver Spring Networks (see Green Light post).

GridPoint’s role will be to help the utility "evaluate how theintegration of energy storage could enhance the value of distributedphotovoltaic (PV) resources for the community, the utility and the gridby reducing peak loads, firming capacity and maximizing overall systemefficiency," it said in a press release.

Managing solar power systems is looming as a big task for utilitiesthat face mandates to boost the share of power they obtain fromrenewable sources. Customer-owned rooftop solar panels present aparticular challenge, since they could destabilize local distributiongrids without additional storage and communication and control systems,experts say (see Will Solar Crash the Smart Grid?).

SMUD also plans to launch a so-called "feed-in tariff" program inJanuary that would pay the owners of solar power systems and otherrenewable energy generation systems for their power, most likely at ahigher rate. That could boost solar installations in its territory (seeGreen Light post).

GridPoint said its software can monitor and control solar power andstorage in real time. Solar power could be diverted to batteries whengrid power is plentiful, then discharged when it’s facing peak demandsfor power, for example.

GridPoint is doing similar work for Chicago-based CommonwealthEdison, which wants to install solar panels, some with energy storagesystems, in customers’ homes. Those customers would also have controlsystems that could interpret variable prices to decide when to sellpower back to the grid and when to store it.

Pilot projects testing various combinations of smart meters, solarpower controls, energy storage systems, customer interfaces andvariable pricing schemes are underway at utilities including Duke Energy, San Diego Gas & Electric, PNM Resources and in five "solar energy grid integration systems," or SEGIS, projects being funded by the Department of Energy (see Microgrids: $2.1B Market by 2015).

Several utilities have applied for DOE grants from a separate, $615million pool of stimulus funds to pursue similar projects (see SoCal Edison Wants A123′s Biggest Grid Battery Ever and Green Light posts here and here).