As energy storage becomes cheaper and more plentiful, fully utilizing battery storage deployments requires value-stream co-optimization. This post will cover some of the challenges and opportunities we’ve experienced as we help our customers who operate solar + storage deploy and co-optimize ever-growing energy-storage portfolios.
Value-stream co-optimization is critical to managing distributed energy-storage assets, whether for distribution support use cases, e.g., non-wires alternatives (NWA), or for capturing merchant value streams through virtual power plants (VPPs). These categories of NWA and VPP value streams are increasingly found in the same installation or fleet of installations.
Expanding these optimizations to fleets of resources that may consist of more than just battery storage is key to preventing legacy demand response programs and resources from becoming stranded assets.
We have also seen a dramatic increase in the size and complexity of larger front of the meter storage, renewable, and power purchase agreement combinations which require co-optimization of multiple competing value streams and constraints to meet their investment goals.
To fully leverage these value streams, the operators of these resources require software that can serve a variety of use cases and optimizations. Through our AutoGrid Flex™ flexibility management platform, operators can produce several distribution, transmission, merchant, and site value-stream use cases and optimizations.
The solar + storage fleet solution enables co-optimization across all value streams, benefiting end-customers with resiliency, energy, and demand charge reductions while supporting network needs with distribution flexibility and merchant value streams such as ancillary services.
Co-optimizing for different value streams
AutoGrid’s customers are deploying battery energy storage at all scales, covering numerous use cases. They range from fleets of small residential devices, that are co-optimized by AutoGrid Flex to perform multiple local and portfolio level functions, to massive standalone devices used for primary frequency response.
All of these projects make economic sense only when multiple value streams are not just stacked but also co-optimized in a way that minimizes risk. Leveraging AutoGrid Flex and its advanced machine learning platform, for example, operators can maximize value while minimizing risk and ensuring that capacity for critical uses is reserved at all times.
These scenarios sometimes overlay distribution value streams with merchant value streams, which creates one set of complicated objective functions, and other times overlay fully merchant markets and associated volatility with fixed offtake agreements – driving the need for platforms such as AutoGrid Flex to manage these complexities.
Of particular interest to distribution utilities, especially in the United States and Canada, are projects that provide rate-base benefits. These may include deferral of capital upgrades (e.g., NWA) as well as customer-facility or market benefits, which may in turn benefit operating margins by offsetting supply cost.
For example, we’ve onboarded a distribution utility customer–storage asset that is part of a microgrid to reduce demand on a distribution circuit. This was achieved by monitoring circuit amperage in real-time and dispatching the storage asset according to various constraints defined in the system. This installation can also island from the grid and provide photovoltaic output time-shifting.
Solar + storage operators use AutoGrid Flex as a SaaS to monetize millions in grid services . . .using our turnkey VPP solutions and scheduling coordinator services in CAISO to orchestrate and monetize the usage of flexible assets, including, EVs, smart thermostats and residential battery storage.
Leveraging machine learning
While the microgrid asset project described above lies within a vertically integrated utility, many of our customers are located in regions with deregulated markets. Thus, they can take advantage of the advanced machine learning-based co-optimization provided by AutoGrid Flex to capture these value streams. In these cases, Flex allows them to solve for maximizing merchant market revenue while maintaining dispatchable capacity for NWA load shifting or system reliability and minimizing merchant risk.
One such customer portfolio overlays dispatchable capacity for wholesale energy value streams and ancillary services. For this deployment, AutoGrid provides a turnkey solution covering site-control hardware, wholesale market real-time control and telemetry integration, and cloud-based big-data optimization with API interfaces to the customer’s trading desk. This deployment model is being replicated in other regions by other customers and collectively touches thousands of megawatts of solar, storage, and wind resources globally as of April 2022.
Connecting to flexibility-management platforms
Battery storage devices are most valuable when connected directly to a platform like AutoGrid Flex rather than relying on the algorithms provided by hardware OEMs or integrators. Some value streams require that the storage assets (or other assets) are continuously steered through real power set-points delivered every few seconds, while others require steering on a time scale of around 60 seconds to realize maximum value.
Companies participating in the electricity space will require more interconnectivity and interoperability within their systems and networks to maximize the value of their assets. AutoGrid can provide direct-to-hardware as well as platform-to-platform integration solutions to achieve a variety of distribution, transmission, merchant, and site value-stream use cases and optimizations between various combinations of these.
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