Hawaiian Home a Solar-Battery Storage Microgrid Showcase

Combining performance-enhanced PV panels, advanced battery storage and cloud-connected system monitoring, a residential microgrid now up and running on the ¨Big Island¨ of Hawaii’s Kona Coast shows how PV and clean tech innovators are bringing renewable energy self-sufficiency closer to commercial, mass-market reality. The smart solar-battery storage microgrid now up and running at Bakken Hale, the home of environmentalist, inventor and entrepreneur Earl Bakken, is one of the largest of its kind in the world.

Installed by Aloha State solar installer Renewable Energy Systems    (RES) and Silicon Valley-based Tigo Energy, a ground-mounted array of 176-kW PV panels is able to produce 356-MWh of emissions-free electricity per year over a projected 20-year lifecycle. That’s enough to meet all of Bakken Hale’s power needs, the two project partners stated in a press release.

Providing the distributed ¨intelligence¨ required to optimize performance, Tigo’s Smart product platform closely monitors, adjusts and produces reports on individual PV module and microgrid system operating conditions and status, Tigo VP Marketing Vered Sharon explained.

Optimizing Solar-Battery Storage Microgrids

Integrated with Tigo’s PV optimization software, a 1-MWh Aquion Energy Aqueous Hybrid Ion (AHI) battery system stores the electrical energy generated during days and dispatches it in the evenings as needed.

Aquion AHI home battery storage bank. Credit: Aquion Energy

The founder of Medtronics and inventor of the world’s first battery-powered pacemaker, Bakken explained the main reason he decided to invest in such an advanced renewable energy microgrid and take Bakken Hale off the utility grid: “I want to demonstrate that using a solar and battery-powered microgrid is the best solution because it allows us to meet all of our power needs day and night. We are attracted to Tigo’s platform in particular because their technology is of the highest quality, which will enable us to generate solar power at the optimal level for years to come.”

Embedded in PV modules of several of the solar PV industry’s top 10 manufacturers, Tigo’s Smart platform products are boosting power production at residential, commercial and utility sites around the world by as much as 25 percent at minimal cost, Sharon highlighted in an interview.

Tigo is the only company that integrates and enhances the performance of the inverters and charge controllers that are part and parcel of PV installations, chairman and CEO Zvi Alon stated in the press release. “We look forward to continue to increase the number of hybrid PV-battery systems and working on similar solar-battery projects worldwide,” he said.

Solar-battery Storage Microgrid Operations and Safety

The Los Gatos, California-based company’s patented PV optimization technology is installed at some very remote sites in some of the harshest operating conditions on the planet. That includes the Himalayas, the Sahara and Antarctica, Sharon pointed out.

Programmed to operate in concert with Bakken Hale’s smart battery storage system, Tigo’s Smart platform technology makes use of wireless broadband communications to feed data into a data-logging application.

As a result, real-time and past data on PV electricity output; battery charging, discharging and capacity; and other key operating elements and conditions are accessible to any authorized end-user with any smartphone, tablet or laptop computer and Internet connectivity.

Tigo’s PV optimization technology also includes safety features that can be fully automated or require human interaction based on compliance and operating specifications. Smart Optimization modules’ emergency notification and protection features, for example, enable end-users to shut PV systems down if voltages reach levels that pose a safety risk. Tigo’s Smart PV systems come with a ¨Rapid Shutdown¨ feature that shuts systems down within ten seconds in accordance with NEC 690.12 safety codes, Sharon elaborated.

Lead Image: 176-kW solar PV microgrid in Hawaii. Credit: Renewable Energy Systems

Editor’s Note: Interested in furthering your understanding of microgrids? Take RenewableEnergyWorld.com’s Microgrid Executive MBA Training Course with Microgrid Expert Mahesh Bhave. The next course begins September 21. Learn more here!

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Andrew reports on renewable energy, clean technology and other issues and topics from posts abroad and here in the US.

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