EaaS companies stand by for Puerto Rico grid emergencies

EaaS companies stand by for Puerto Rico grid emergencies
Puerto Rico flag against city blurred background at sunrise. Image courtesy 123rf

California-based Sunrun and Puerto Rico’s Sunnova – two energy-as-a-service (EaaS) companies – have separately announced participation of their residential battery and solar solutions within an emergency grid balancing programme in Puerto Rico to mitigate potential power outages as ageing power stations trip.

The companies’ fleets of solar and battery storage solutions will participate in the Battery Emergency Demand Response programme in Puerto Rico, which is being called the first distributed power plant programme in the nation that specifically focuses on rapid emergency response to ensure the grid remains stable.

Through the programme, backup power will be tapped into from residential solar and storage systems when the island’s ageing oil- and gas-fired power plants fail or when electricity generation issues arise that could lead to rolling blackouts.

According to a Sunrun-issued press release announcing their participation, Puerto Rico leads the US in total hours of electricity outages; millions of residents experienced more than 300 million hours of power disruptions in 2022.

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Earlier this year in June, tens of thousands were without electricity as the island reached a record-breaking heat index of 125°F (51.7°C), knocking an oil-fired power plant out of service.

The distributed power plant programme was formed in response to the island’s repeating outages, giving the utility provider on the island access to flexible and cost-effective power from residential energy resources to alleviate pressure on the power grid during periods of peak demand.

When the grid is under stress, and as requested by Puerto Rico‘s distribution and transmission operator LUMA, participating systems will be instructed to discharge battery storage to the site or to the grid, reducing overall demand on the grid, minimising blackouts, and keeping the power on.

Anticipated dispatch and customer compensation

The programme is anticipating 75 to 125 dispatch events in the first year with an average duration of two hours.

Through their participation in the grid balancing emergency programme, customers from Sunrun and Sunnova will be compensated for use of the energy.

Sunrun participatory customers, who will receive a pay-for-performance payment estimated at hundreds of dollars per battery, are expected to number in the thousands. In the event of a local power outage, states Sunrun, batteries enrolled in the programme will retain enough backup energy to meet personal, essential needs.

Sunnova customers’ batteries, states the company, will never be discharged below a capacity level of their choosing. At the end of the year, participating customers would be credited by Sunnova for the energy produced by their batteries during these events.

According to Sunnova, the average residential customer may receive up to $1,000 annually for their participation, depending on their battery size and configuration, and final programme details.

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“The unfortunate reality of an unreliable local electrical grid and frequent power outages has plagued Puerto Rico for far too long,” commented said William John Berger, CEO of Sunnova.

“Luckily, a new era of energy stability and empowerment is here. By harnessing the energy stored in batteries during times of high demand or emergencies, homeowners can actively contribute to grid stabilisation and be rewarded for their valuable contribution, all while benefitting electricity consumers across the Island.”

Stated Sunrun CEO, Mary Powell: “It’s exciting to see the progress being made on the island with officials and grid operators embracing home solar and storage as playing a key role in making sure Puerto Ricans have access to clean, affordable and resilient energy, especially as we enter hurricane season.