Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) awardee Go Electric and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers have begun testing the startup’s inverter, which is designed to provide an uninterruptible power supply that instantly synchronizes with the grid, in NREL’s Energy System Integration Facility (ESIF) Energy Storage Laboratory.
Go Electric’s technology, called LYNC DR, integrates patented microgrid power transfer technology with battery energy storage and open Automated Demand Response communication capability to provide continuous power and automatic demand response functionality to a commercial building or military base.
“We are a little bit different type of inverter from most of the ones you see, such as a small inverter that is grid-interactive and has a simple disconnect,” said Tony Soverns, the company’s chief technology officer, during ESIF installation in February. “What makes our inverter unique is that it can go on the grid, off the grid, and back on the grid while carrying a load, without shutting off.” Soverns told NREL researchers that it was a “rather novel concept” and “once it’s demonstrated to you, you’ll run off and come up with all kinds of applications I’ve never dreamed of before.”
For the IN2 project, the technology enables seamless power transfer between different commercial building energy generation technologies—such as the grid and a lithium-ion battery—and is able to integrate renewables. “What you have is effectively an electric car that is driving the grid,” Soverns said. The company shipped the unit from its headquarters near Indianapolis, Indiana, and is expected to test the device at NREL through mid-summer.
The technology’s potential earned IN2 support last year. IN2 is a nine-year, $30 million program designed to facilitate early-stage technologies that provide scalable solutions to reduce the energy impact of commercial buildings. IN2 is funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by NREL. Awardees like GoElectric receive up to $250,000 in technical assistance and project-related support from NREL.
The functionality provided by Go Electric’s technology could prove desirable to building owners and managers of space with critical systems such as data centers that require continuous power. “The driving decision for a customer might be the uninterruptible power system capability, effectively suppressing the need for expensive spinning reserves” said NREL engineer Willy Bernal. “However, there is an additional incentive for the customer due to the revenue stream derived from reacting to a utility’s demand response event.”
NREL will validate minimal functional requirements for equipment to connect to the grid according to interconnection standards. Researchers will include nonstandard tests to assess the performance of the unit based on feedback from technical experts in the field. Additionally, NREL researchers, in collaboration with Go Electric, will evaluate the demand response functionality and the value proposition of the technology.
As part of its incubator support, the NREL team will help Go Electric develop its demand response value proposition based on building types and battery size, and will evaluate further technology development needs based on testing results and a deeper understanding of market questions about this type of technology.
For now, things appear to be a go for Go Electric and the promise of its novel implementation of microgrid controls to orchestrate the integration of an off-the-shelf inverter, battery, and renewable energy.
For more information about the Wells Fargo program, visit the IN2 website.
— Written by Ernie Tucker, NREL Communications and Public Affairs