California-based firms Stem and Sunverge announced on December 11 that they are to install energy storage systems across multiple sites in Japan to examine how virtual power plants can allow the country to increase renewable energy generation in its energy mix.
The pilot projects come as Japan’s Ministry of Energy, Trade and Infrastructure (METI) investigates how deregulated services and markets, and flexible capacity can help manage grid-connected renewable energy as it looks to redesign its near 300GW electricity market.
The Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co is involved with both projects.
Stem, in its first international project, will initially deploy around 750kWh of industrial customer-sited energy storage at multiple sites outside of Tokyo for Mitsui and host customers to form a fast-responding distributed resource. The first system is at a recycling centre in the service territory of Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company).
Stem will use its AI software to capture data on a second-by-second basis, which it will then dispatch on a five-minute basis, with terabytes of data stored to the cloud.
The initial project within the VPP network is the first of a series of planned schemes in Japan by Stem and Mitsui, and could form a base for further expansion throughout Asia.
Meanwhile, the Sunverge project aims to demonstrate VPP ability to provide grid-balancing and demand charge reduction services, by providing the grid operator with an energy control system that adjusts within 15 minutes (or less) of major changes in demand.
In February 2016, Mitsui invested $10 million in Series C preferred stock financing by Sunverge amid reports that the pair were due to work on a next-generation electricity power business.
That business looks as if it will involve a project, in cooperation with Mitsui, to manage seven of its 19.6kWh battery invertor units as a single virtual node on Tepco’s grid. The net aggregated power flow will be controlled at the individual unit level, based on the predicted load, PV generation and available storage capacity.
Sunverge CEO Martin Milani, said: “The ability to aggregate and manage distributed energy resources as a fleet and combining and managing a logical subset and grouping as a virtual nanogrid is increasingly important to make the grid more stable, resilient and dynamic.
“When aggregated, renewables can contribute a significant portion of a country’s energy generation without significant investment.”
Enabling a secure energy supply has been a key issue in Japan since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami knocked the Fukushima nuclear power plant off-line.
Japan, which wants renewables to account for at least 20% of its power generation in 2030, has so far seen METI designate ¥7 billion ($59 million) in subsidies for VPP development in fiscal years 2016 to 2017.
On the same day the projects were announced, Mitsui confirmed it had invested around ¥500 million ($4,433million) in shares of Preferred Networks, which develops and supplies artificial intelligence technologies, including deep learning technology.