The tricky part of microgrids is an intelligent interaction with the utility so that in the design and operation of the microgrid, factors like time of use rates, energy arbitrage, energy efficiency and storage can all be considered and optimized to the minute. This is no small task. However, companies performing this sort of electronic microgrid management are emerging for residential, commercial and industrial scale projects, eliminating guesswork and optimizing the Lowest Cost Of Energy and Return On Investment.
CleanSpark, based in San Diego, is one such microgrid manager, using intelligent analytics for design and decision making, along with advanced controls for 24/7 operations. The company began testing its solution on a local residential system that was located just far enough off the grid that the utility would have made interconnection a very expensive option.
The microgrid uses 12.4 kW of mounted solar photovoltaics and 20.4 kW of lithium ferrous phosphate energy storage, supplied by SimpliPhi Power, and an 11 kW natural gas emergency backup genset, supplied by Generac, CleanSpark says.
Together, the energy systems create nested microgrids with triple redundancy. So in addition to achieving an estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, the project also provides exceptionally reliable power, according to CleanSpark.
"As the cost of energy storage continues to come down, we believe the application of microgrid solutions to the residential market will continue to increase, and we are well-positioned with a robust offering to capture a fair share of the opportunities," said Matthew Schultz, CleanSpark CEO, in a statement.
Having successfully demonstrated the technology, CleanSpark turned to the C&I segment as its primary focus, and has now secured a dozen contracts for individual projects, some of which are held in national portfolios. The company's latest project was the Camp Pendleton microgrid, completed in early May.
The overall Pendleton project is the Communications Information Systems (C.I.S.) Operations Complex including a data center, headquarters facility, maintenance and supply warehouse, and related communications infrastructure. The complete project receives backup power from UPS and traditional standby generators provided by other contractors. The general contractor for the overall project was Bethel-Webcor JV, CleanSpark says.
A subset of the critical loads are served by CleanSpark's solar plus storage microgrid, offering perpetual off-grid 100% renewable driven energy security through an all iron-flow battery that is DC coupled, the company says. The system includes solar photovoltaic generation located on both carport shade structures and the buildings' roofs. CleanSpark was responsible for the optimization, design, engineering, and deployment of the solar plus storage microgrid, the company says.
CleanSpark collaborated with ESS to deliver the first Solar PV, DC Coupled, Iron-Flow battery deployment in history, which harvests previously unusable solar power at early and late points in the day through DC charging, through a non-degrading, non-toxic, and non-flammable battery chemistry, the company notes.
CleanSpark now is in the process of evaluating several solar plus storage microgrid projects for defense, municipal, commercial and industrial use cases to provide benefits including energy savings, energy security, and sustainability, it says. Recently, the company secured $20 million in financing to support Energy Savings Agreements on similar projects, it notes.
The backbone of the CleanSpark system is its intelligent analytics, called the Microgrid Value Stream Optimizer (mVSO). This analytic output serves as a customized guide to maximizing the energy project's ROI. The analytics account for real costs, precise utility rate models, equipment performance, actual energy consumption and outlines what type of energy resources are to be built, what it will cost, and how it will perform once deployed, the company explains. Engineering and deep data analytics combine for detailed economic performance modeling, that is supported by bankable technology and actionable proforma conclusions, the company says.
Operating the microgrid is the second component of the CleanSpark solution, called mPulse DER Software Enabled Energy Manager. The mPulse software controls are capable of integrating multiple Distributed Energy Resources (DER) including storage, renewables and fossil fuel technologies, the company says. The intelligent software package collects, archives, and analyzes data 24/7, providing real-time control and reporting, ensuring that the project is performing according to the upfront plan, the company adds. mPulse is built on a foundation of artificial intelligence that autonomously optimizes the energy system; it is continuously growing, learning and updating to capture changing electric rates, changes in operations or to manage grid outages, CleanSpark says.
CleanSpark provides advanced energy software and control technology that enables a plug-and-play enterprise solution to modern energy challenges. Its services consist of intelligent energy monitoring and controls, microgrid design and engineering, microgrid consulting services, and turn-key microgrid implementation services. CleanSpark's customers include not only energy consumers but the distributed energy ecosystem at large: developers, installers, EPCs, IPPs, and energy storage vendors, the company notes.
About the Author
Charles W. Thurston Charles specializes in renewable energy, from finance to technological processes. Among key areas of focus are bifacial panels and solar tracking. He has been active in the industry for over 25 years, living and working in locations ranging from Brazil to Papua New Guinea.