When we caught up with Gridpoint’s Vice President for Product Strategy, Brian Golden, he wanted to make sure it was clear they offer a lot more than storage. Gridpoint’s “Connect Series” product is a turnkey electricity management system that can be installed in light commercial or multi-unit residential buildings or at a utility substation, in order to monitor and manage electricity usage. And Gridpoint, who already counts among their customers virtually every major power utility in the USA, is one of a handful of companies who offer a suite of products to manage electrical resources more intelligently.
|Gridpoint’s 12 kWh
But Gridpoint’s “Connect Series” unit, about the size of a small refrigerator, is the only product currently available that not only helps electricity consumers and electric utilities manage energy more intelligently, each unit is also capable of storing up to 12 kWh of usable AC electricity. Gridpoint already has hundreds of these units in pilot installations throughout the USA.
With distributed sources of electricity now arriving in new, innovative forms, and capacity increasing exponentially, distributed storage is the final step necessary to completely transform our energy landscape. Wind power is intermittant, solar power peaks between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. – but with distributed storage available, it doesn’t matter.
As Golden explained, there are several benefits to distributed storage. During power outages, stored electricity can be discharged back into the grid beyond the break in the line, maintaining reliable constant power. In markets where energy pricing is tiered, electricity can be stored during low off peak rates and discharged when rates are higher. Flattening the load by pushing power into the grid during peak hours of demand from distributed sources can relieve congestion on the grid. And, of course, distributed renewable energy sources such as wind and solar can be captured during their limited hours of collection, and utilized 24 hours per day from storage systems. Without distributed storage, new distributed sources of power cannot make nearly the same impact, and Gridpoint is the first company out there offering a product in the market, right now, that solves this challenge.
When I asked Golden what one of these units cost, he said they are about $10,000 to the consumer. Given the current prices of multi-family dwellings or light commercial buildings, that really doesn’t sound like very much. But as a tool to arbitrage between higher peak demand rates and lower off-peak rates, at $10,000 a pop, the unit has a fairly long payback. As a tool to flatten demand for a utility in order to prevent spot prices from spiking, however, the unit is already economical. It is also already economical for new land developments, where the storage capacity offered by Gridpoint’s products, combined with on-site sources of electricity from (for example) photovoltaics, significantly reduces the need for infrastructure to connect to the existing electrical grid – paying for itself immediately.
In any case, as Golden pointed out, we are only a few years away from batteries becoming far more economical. The lead acid batteries used in the Gridpoint units last five years, they are telecommunications grade – meaning they are sealed, extremely durable and safe – and they cost about $185 per usable kilowatt-hour of AC current. But thanks to the advances in hybrid and all-electric car design, advances in battery technology are happening fast. By the time the existing battery systems reach the end of their useful life, they will be replaced – within the same units – by batteries with price performance triple what they are today.
And as utilites move beyond the pilot scale installations of Gridpoint’s products, and begin to place orders in the thousands, the storage capacity that aggregates across the USA will match the exponential increase in capacity from intermittant renewable sources, allowing them to provide round-the-clock electricity. Perfect for charging our plug-ins while we sleep, when the sun is down and the wind has died.