SunPower, sonnen launch ‘solar neighbourhood’ programmes in California and New York

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Press tour of a sonnen VPP project at a residential community in Utah, 2019. Image: Andy Colthorpe / Solar Media.

Vertically integrated solar PV company SunPower and residential battery storage provider sonnen have each started up programmes to deploy solar-plus-storage for communities in California and New York respectively.

SunPower said yesterday that its solar and storage equipment will be installed as standard in 128 new homes in Placer County, California, through a tie-up with homebuilder Woodside Homes. The homes, in a new-build community called Brady Vineyards, will start selling in the spring of next year, and will be equipped with SunPower’s SunVault brand 13kWh lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery energy storage systems, in addition to the company’s Equinox rooftop solar PV systems. That amounts to about 1,664kWh of storage.

It carries on a partnership between the two companies which has seen SunPower solar equipment installed at 4,000 houses over the past 14 years. In addition to standardising the SunPower installs at Brady Vineyards, Woodside is offering solar and storage systems to owners and buyers of homes in all of its communities in Northern California with SunPower as an exclusive supply partner.

SunPower noted that the deal comes as California residents grow concerned about grid outages and planned blackouts as heatwaves and wildfires hit the state over summer once again. The company said it is aggressively pursuing opportunities to partner with homebuilders during 2021. SunPower claimed that the Woodside installations will also lower energy costs for the houses it installs at for Woodside, as well as helping residents to live more sustainably.

sonnen rolls out 80MWh New York virtual power plant

Meanwhile, Germany-headquartered sonnen has created a virtual power plant (VPP) programme in New York State which will see its EcoLinx brand battery storage systems paired with solar in partnership with local community choice aggregator (CCA) electricity supplier Sustainable Westchester.

Called the sonnenCommunity New York Virtual Power Plant, the programme offers homeowners clean energy at a discounted rate, while also enabling them to use the batteries as backup for their power in case of outages. Participants can own their EcoLinx systems themselves or lease them from third-party investors and subscribe to the service.

At the same time, the VPP programme allows the battery systems to be aggregated together and used as a dispatchable grid asset to lower peak demand on the local energy networks of utility Con Edison. The systems will be enrolled into New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) wholesale market programmes where their stored energy and power will be used to participate in revenue generating opportunities.

In an initial rollout phase, EcoLinx systems will be deployed at 200 homes by sonnen and local contractors. The standard EcoLinx comes with 17kW output and capacity in a range of 12kWh to 20kWh, if we assume all 200 initial installations were basic models, that would total 3,400kW / 2,400kWh of storage. Like SunPower's Equinox, sonnen's battery units use lithium iron phosphate chemistry battery cells. 

sonnen said the VPP’s planned scale will eventually reach 80MWh of capacity, targeting several communities in nearby Long Island if the initial demonstration phase with Sustainable Westchester is successful, targeting enrolling 5,000 home systems into the programme by 2024. The power plant will be coordinated by the company’s Logical Buildings software platform to be able to play the roles that a conventional fossil fuel plant would have performed, such as kicking in to meet high electricity demand when it peaks.

“We understand that stand-alone residential solar is not sufficient – a distributed, modernised grid requires controllable, intelligent batteries paired with solar. What’s more, VPPs are invaluable resources that can replace the dirtiest “peaker” power plants with local renewable energy,” Sustainable Westchester director of business development Michel Delafontaine said.

“Fostering community engagement and inspiring environmental leadership are key tenets of our business model. With our involvement in the sonnenCommunity NY VPP, we’re able to deploy our knowledge of regional markets and municipal programmes as well as our connections with local leadership to implement an innovative solution from sonnen that provides a clean, reliable energy future for our residents and community infrastructure.”

sonnen has done several such programmes around the US already, working in partnership with utilities and residential community planners. Back in Germany, where it is considered a leader in the booming home energy storage market, the company is a registered electricity supplier and bundles the sonnenCommunity VPP capability with some of its systems.

The New York VPP programme follows a number of other recent VPP efforts underway by the likes of Sunverge in Maryland, Eguana Technologies in Hawaii, Swell Energy in California, Hawaii and New York and Sunrun in New England and California. Meanwhile Tesla Energy — already a participant in the largest residential VPP programme in the world so far, in South Australia — was earlier this week revealed to be deploying its first ‘solar neighbourhood’ in the US, partnering up with a residential community developer in Austin, Texas.

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