Ageto Energy Brings Louisiana’s First Commercial Microgrid Online During Pandemic with Remote Commissioning Capabilities
Net-Zero Housing Community Enables Sustainable Living
In Mid-City New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2020, national disaster resilience and recovery organization SBP and clean energy provider Solar Alternatives were underway turning a 50-unit apartment building into Louisiana’s first net-zero energy commercial facility - and the state’s first commercial microgrid. St. Peter Apartments, which provides housing for veterans and mixed-income residents, showcases the positive impact of clean energy on community resilience and mitigating climate change while offering affordable electricity to residents.
With over 450 solar PV panels from SunPower and battery energy storage from Dynapower and Samsung, the 178kW system featured Ageto’s ARC microgrid controller and is estimated to generate over one million dollars in lifetime energy cost savings. The state-of-the-art microgrid system provides critical backup power during grid outages, while each apartment unit is equipped with high efficiency appliances and efficient energy management to ensure a low carbon impact with minimal energy bills for residents.
Built-in Benefit of Remote Technology
Though the site’s solar equipment was sourced locally, Ageto shipped its controller equipment from Ft. Collins, Colorado to New Orleans to be installed, pre-pandemic. As standard with all Ageto projects, Ageto then planned to send a team onsite to commission the system and train the customers.
Rather than delaying the project due to travel restrictions, the Ageto team adapted, using its innovative technology to successfully commission the project entirely from Ft. Collins. Using the controller’s built-in remote screen sharing feature, Ageto was able to talk with Solar Alternatives’ onsite engineer and walk them through the process in real-time. Solar Alternatives was also able to configure the PV inverters based on Ageto’s instructions.
The controller’s remote functionality was originally designed to provide system operators and the Ageto team with real-time insights into system performance, but in this case, it provided an inherent benefit that allowed the project to be completed without ever stepping foot onsite.
“Through Ageto’s controls, we could access the system remotely and communicate step-by-step with Solar Alternatives, who acted as our eyes and ears in the field,” said Anthony Johnson, CTO of Ageto Energy. “Fortunately for us, when travel bans hit we didn’t have to scramble to find a solution; we already had one built-in.”
Streamlining Commissioning Process for Microgrid Partners
Just as Ageto was unable to travel, the other project partners could not commission their technology onsite either. However, through Ageto’s remote gateway, which was connected on the local area network in the microgrid, all vendors were able to access the microgrid for their own remote commissioning without needing an independent remote connection to each energy resource. Not only did this reduce overall system cost and complexity, it also ensured a secure cybersecurity connection.
Johnson also credits the success of this remote commissioning to Ageto’s prior experience with both the inverter and battery providers, which were part of a catalog of assets programmed within the Ageto ARC™ software, as well as the technical aptitude of the on-site engineer. All of this combined helped to not only speed the process but also save time and money for everyone involved.
Then, two days before Hurricane Laura hit New Orleans this past August, Solar Alternatives asked Ageto to prepare the system for potential outages. While Solar Alternatives has a list of parameters they can change within the Ageto control system to maximize energy storage and make sure the microgrid is fully charged, Ageto wanted to make it even simpler. In just a few hours, Ageto created a one-button resilience mode that when activated fully tops off the battery from either onsite solar or from the utility grid.
The St. Peter Apartments project is Ageto’s second remote commissioning to take place during the travel ban, with the first having been completed earlier this year on Harbledown Island, British Columbia, Canada over a satellite internet link.
Although onsite commissioning is still preferred, projects like these prove remote commissionings are possible when necessary. The success of the Louisiana microgrid project demonstrates both the validity of remote commissioning and value of Ageto’s advanced technology to aid in the ongoing adoption of renewable energy.
Reliable power is, and will always be, a necessity for maintaining the standards of modern life. But faced with the harsh reality of today’s weather-related natural disasters, like statewide power shut-offs during California wildfires and the longest blackout in U.S. history following hurricanes in Puerto Rico, the need for clean, low-carbon energy resilience has never been stronger.
Fortunately, society has also become more environmentally-conscious, favoring alternative energy over fossil fuels. Although solar PV plus battery storage has surged in popularity among homeowners and 2019 was a record year for microgrid installations at the commercial level, adoption of microgrids must accelerate in order to reach climate goals and achieve true preparedness for natural disaster events. So, with all things considered, why are microgrids not more prolific?
Though seemingly nascent, advanced microgrid technology has been available for years. Mainstream adoption, however, is slow due to the complexity of integrating multiple generations sources, such as solar PV, battery storage, the electric grid and potentially a generator. Many clean energy providers familiar with solar recognize the value of microgrids as a ‘solar-plus-storage with resiliency’ option that would give them a competitive advantage, yet lack field experience with microgrid installations to include it as a service.
That’s where Ageto comes in.
The Ageto ARC Microgrid Controller is an operator-focused microgrid energy management system that coordinates and dispatches a site’s various distributed energy resources to seamlessly deploy reliable, clean energy capable of powering everything from commercial buildings to off-grid communities.
Intuitive Technology Simplifies Microgrid Integration
Ageto’s approach to technology comes from its founders’ real-world, hands-on expertise in power systems. With background knowledge in all aspects of a project, including onsite commissioning, performance monitoring, technician training and technical support, Ageto created a microgrid solution combining advanced hardware and intuitive software that seamlessly integrates microgrid components into a comprehensive system.
While many in the microgrid controller market have taken the approach of trying to adapt utility-scale control systems into commercial-scale solutions, this causes two main obstacles. For one, these systems are not user-friendly and instead rely on the end-user having extensive knowledge in power systems. Secondly, these systems are priced and sized for utility solutions, not smaller commercial projects. Imagine shrinking an interface intended for an 80-inch flat screen in a control room down to fit a computer screen in a small electrical room.
Instead, Ageto’s technology approach is more likened to an operating system designed to manage a microgrid’s functionality that is intuitively designed for those wanting both a high-level overview and those wanting deep technical information. By understanding the people who are going to interact with the system the most and how they are going to use the information, Ageto made strategic design decisions that benefit multiple user types.
A simple touch-screen interface provides integrators and technicians with critical performance information, while also featuring easy-to-understand icons that make it clear enough for system owners to interpret. On the same portal, system owners have access to the insights they care about most, like the amount of carbon their building offsets or how many days their system ran solely on renewables.
Using the data historian embedded in the control system, which can also be accessed remotely, the Ageto ARC microgrid controller provides a 360-degree view of how the entire system is performing, giving the operator one point of reference rather than monitoring the solar PV, battery and generator systems individually. This simplicity also greatly reduces customer support calls and provides peace of mind for the operator.
Though resilience is one of today’s most pressing goals, renewable energy technology must be able to intuitively and holistically work together to create a truly resilient power source. Using advanced technology, Ageto ARC is the overarching operating system that links together a fully-functioning microgrid system end-to-end.
In August, Mike Murray, Director of Business Development, contributed to an article written by HOMER International. The article dives into the requirements and types of microgrid controls for both off-grid and behind-the-meter microgrid power systems.
The article can be found at: http://microgridnews.com/microgrid-control-systems/
In October, Mike will also be speaking on this topic at the HOMER International Microgrid Conference being held in San Diego, CA from October 8-10.
Additional conference details can be found here: