Control platform takes commercial PV off grid so it can sell services, energy back to network


From pv magazine Australia

In the context of COP26's achievements so far, a moonshot is called for, and one Australian company is calling it. Behind the scenes of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference, eleXsys Energy is agitating for businesses and municipalities to Just Look Up for a simple solution to the huge problem of global warming. It’s positing that if 50% of all global rooftops hosted solar, their combined output could provide 100% of the world’s current electricity needs.

What the world doesn’t yet fully understand, says Richard Romanowski, executive director and co-founder of eleXsys Energy's combined hardware and software solution, is that the problem of connecting huge amounts of variable solar and wind generation to the grid can be solved by taking renewables-powered commercial enterprises, villages and regional towns off the grid. This allows them to sell services and energy back into the network, as required, via participation in wholesale energy markets.

Licensed in its home country to Planet Ark Power, eleXsys Energy is in the process of installing 1.9 MW of solar generation on the rooftop and car park of the Adelaide Airport IKEA store in South Australia, alongside a 3.36 MW/3.45MWh lithium battery supplied by CATL and the unique eleXsys Energy management system. The flagship for hundreds more such C&I installations, the IKEA microgrid will allow the homewares megastore to be 100% powered by onsite renewables by 2025, while reducing its energy costs by a forecast 25%.

In addition, the eleXsys control platform has allowed a system more than 10 times the accepted “safe” size for grid interaction to be connected in solar-rich South Australia, which leads the world in addressing the problems associated with renewable-energy exports.

For regional towns that link rooftop solar on businesses, community buildings and residences to grid-scale storage, an eleXsis-managed microgrid will supply cheap electricity that lowers the cost of doing business, provides a sustainable point of difference to the locality’s products and produce, and helps new enterprises thrive.

“When you take a village or a small city that is struggling and give it clean, cheap energy, it can start new businesses, integrate vertical farming, it sparks a whole range of different things that will grow a community rather than having it slowly diminish,” says Romanowski.

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EleXsys, says Romanowski, solves the problem of backward flow of energy from distributed generators – utility scale and small scale – destabilizing electricity grid voltages.

The compact, scalable hardware device is controlled by AI-based software to deliver services previously provided by deploying multiple devices. It is a grid-forming inverter, a battery charger and speed controller with power-factor correction capabilities – call it a dSTATCOM, or a distribution static synchronous compensator. Developed over several years by former energy utility engineer Bevan Holcombe, and brought to market by clean-energy entrepreneur Romanowski, eleXsys Energy has solved the problem of solar curtailment. But another crucial part of its appeal is that it enables an investable solar-powered business model.

In the context of commercial and industrial transition to solar in particular, it allows the the entire solar-generation, storage and market-participation ecosystem to be independently owned by an entity paying rent to the property/building owner, then selling the world’s cheapest electricity (without added network costs) to the building tenant(s) or owner, and making money by providing services to the grid.

The IKEA project, for example, is owned by a superannuation fund, “and the reason they’ve invested is because with eleXsys they get a 20-year secure income stream,” Romanowski tells pv magazine Australia.

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