Groundbreaking project and quarter for sustainable energy5 minutes
Denver just got greener. Peña Station NEXT, a smart city development located between downtown and the airport, gained more than 1.8 MW of solar panels earlier this year. That number includes more than 250 kW of rooftop solar atop Panasonic’s operations hub there.
The panels alone could go unnoticed in this city that routinely ranks among those with most installed solar capacity. What makes them remarkable is the fact that they are part of a unique solar+storage microgrid. This recently energized distributed energy system features a battery storage system that aids grid integration from all that solar energy, plus provides grid services for utility Xcel Energy as well as resilience through backup power.
Energy storage surges
The Peña microgrid earned an Environmental Leader 2017 Project of the Year award. It was also named one of four finalists in the distributed category for the Energy Storage North America Innovation Awards.
Energy storage in 2017 showed remarkable growth. In just the third quarter alone, some 41.8 megawatts of energy were deployed, a 46% year-over-year growth, according to GTM Research. This year's rise came on top of a strong 2016 when the U.S. deployed 336 megawatts of storage. GTM forecasts that annual storage deployments will reach 7.3 gigawatts by 2022. Energy storage is critical to the rise of microgrids.
New growth expectations
In the U.S., microgrids are often confined by the boundaries—geographic and metaphorical—of a single entity, such as a university or a military base. Yet a recent shift away from single-entity microgrids toward multi-stakeholder models, such as the one in Denver, is improving both project economics and growth expectations.
The Panasonic-led solar + storage microgrid at Peña Station NEXT brings together experience from stakeholders including utility Xcel Energy, Denver International Airport, real estate developer LC Fulenwider, Inc. and Younicos. These organizations share microgrid assets and benefits in a multi-stakeholder “portfolio” model that helps the utility modernize and manage its electricity grid with innovative technologies, aids grid integration of solar PV, strengthens resilience (including through backup power) for customers and critical loads, and supports sustainability goals.
Ideas from pioneering smart town
In addition to the solar panels, the project includes a 1 MW / 2 MWh battery storage system. It also has “solar time shifting,” which stores excess energy when solar energy generation is high. It then dispatches that energy later, when generation slows. It is also built to allow energy arbitrage to control the power cost. Batteries are charged when prices are low and discharged during times of high cost.
The project builds on experience from Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town in Japan, a pioneering community of smart homes that combines energy efficiency, solar power and batteries. Panasonic led development of its microgrid by connecting town buildings to a central real-time energy network that is critical when managing the demands of renewable tech and real-world demands.
As technology and market changes spur new use of renewable energies, the Peña Station NEXT microgrid has the potential to not just provide immediate benefits, but to refine these technologies so that they can better serve a broader population, and support a cleaner, more-reliable U.S. electricity grid.
About our expert: Jarrett Wendt is Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company.