PowerStream, Sunverge test solar storage in Ontario

Ontario community-owned utility PowerStream has launched a pilot solar storage program with Sunverge Energy, with the goal of sharply reducing home electric bills and providing customers with additional outage protection.

The pilot is a key component of the utility's plan to reduce overall power consumption in its service area by 535,440 MWh by 2020, which is the equivalent of taking more than 62,000 homes off the grid.

The utility will install rooftop solar panels and Sunverge systems that provide battery-stored power during periods of peak demand in 20 homes at the outset of the pilot program.

The utility will manage the units together to create a virtual power plant (VPP) using start-up Sunverge's cloud-based software. That will allow PowerStream to manage them as if they were a larger solar energy or energy storage facility, except it will distribute the power at the point of load.

For those homeowners who choose to participate, the pilot project will both save them money and provide them with greater control over their energy usage.

PowerStream says the detailed, real-time insights it will have concerning the VPP and the local distribution system's performance will let it make smarter decisions about how the storage assets are managed when the company moves the initiative beyond the pilot phase.

When implemented on a large-scale basis, a collection of these systems in one area will help PowerStream minimize the extent of power outages and reduce the need for distribution system upgrades.

PowerStream's Sunverge systems feature 11.4-KWh batteries from South Korea's Kokam, power electronics, and multiple energy inputs in a UL-certified appliance under control by cloud-based software. Installed in a small footprint at individual homes, the batteries will provide additional capacity during periods of peak demand, and reliable backup power during outages.

Customers will be able to use more of the power they generate from rooftop solar and rely less on power from the grid, which will translate into significant cost savings under Ontario's new proposed net metering program.

PowerStream is the first Canadian utility to pilot residential storage units in a virtual power plant model like this, according to Ken Munson, chief executive of Sunverge Energy.

Ontario claims to be one of the top five solar markets in North America. The province’s proposed net metering program, due to go into effect in late 2017 or early 2018, will reward greater self-consumption of solar and therefore will drive greater demand for rooftop solar and energy storage systems.

PowerStream provides power and related services to more than 375,000 customers residing or owning a business in communities located immediately north of Toronto and in central Ontario. It is jointly owned by the Cities of Barrie, Markham, and Vaughan.