Simpliphi, Helia team for scalable smart microgrid tech

Simpliphi, Helia team for scalable smart microgrid tech

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Energy storage system maker SimpliPhi Power has teamed up with MIT-spin out Heila Technologies on a distributed, scalable smart microgrid that combines power from homes into a virtual power plant.

Up to 12 of SimpliPhi’s PHI 3.8 kWh batteries, an inverter, a solar array, controllable loads, and other balance of system components are connected to a single Heila controller, which acts as a Battery Management System (BMS) and an Energy Management System (EMS) in a microgrid. All the Heila devices in a system are then aggregated and optimized to form a distributed intelligent network that can be used by any central controller, ADMS or SCADA to control the fleet as a single entity using common protocols.

The PHI batteries measure and report voltage, current and temperatures, and perform useful calculations to determine real-time battery state of charge (SoC), state of health (SoH) and fault detection. Hei la is programmed to operate the PHI battery units in either grid-connected or off-grid mode, and manage transitions between modes, enabling full control of the flow of real and reactive power to and from the grid, load curtailment, and more. 

“Too often distributed assets are viewed as a threat to centralized energy infrastructure. In fact, distributed assets can and should be regarded as providing a grid advantage capable of strengthening our existing infrastructure,” said Catherine Von Burg, CEO of California-ased SimpliPhi. “Distributed energy storage and microgrids are essential in building the grid of the future. The key is to deliver solutions that make it possible for utilities to more easily deploy, seamlessly aggregate and successfully control distributed storage and other assets as part of their established grid operations. The Heila platform does what no other can in terms of making distributed assets easy for a utility to manage.”

“Heila’s vision is to enable the grid of tomorrow by dramatically simplifying the construction, operation and optimization of fleets of DERs,” said Jorge Elizondo, Heila’s Senior Engineer.

“Our universal IQ control platform uses decentralized techniques to aggregate energy resources and make them look like a single system or a virtual power plant,” he said. “It is able to sense changes across all connected components and make the system holistically react to shifts and requests, without the need for any centralized agent to tell each DER what to do. This is a completely modular and extremely scalable way to build systems. With SimpliPhi, we have found an efficient and safe battery that is ready to be deployed at scale to make this vision a reality.”

The combined system was first developed as part of the Stone Edge Farm microgrid laboratory in Sonoma, California, where Heila is used to manage microgrid operations and SimpliPhi storage has been deployed to protect the farm’s most critical systems.

Heila and SimpliPhi are currently working with a utility to build a solar and battery aggregated system in Louisiana that will provide services to the electric grid as a single entity using a decentralized microgrid approach. The project is intended to serve as a model for other stakeholders who are interested in the benefits of decentralized energy generation and storage working as a virtual power plant.

“In addition to utilities, we’ve been approached by real estate developers and municipalities that are looking for innovative ways to aggregate distributed assets as part of new construction or community storage and resiliency projects,” said Von Burg. “We’re excited that SimpliPhi+Heila delivers what they’re seeking: a means to empower their communities with the economic and energy security that storage allows, while aggregating distributed assets in such a way as to ensure both seamless grid integration and flawless off-grid, backup power performance.”

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