A Blacksburg company is providing a critical utility appliance in the nation’s largest municipal solar project. On the 23rd February 2012 the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) installed the first bidirectional storage battery systems developed by PowerHub Systems, a start-up in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. Bidirectional means that the batteries can store either solar or other grid-generated electricity until it is required either in the local neighborhood or by the grid. This concept is essential to the implementation of “Smart Grid” technology, which allows the integration of renewable energy into the nation’s power grid and greater operating flexibility to utilities in their delivery of electrical power.
The first of three PowerHub CE-3034 installed in the SMUD distribution network, Rancho Cordova, CA.
This bidirectional battery storage system, PowerHub’s most significant technology project to date, came about in 2009 when the company teamed with GridPoint, an established leader in smart energy solutions, to develop the storage units and integrate the CES appliances into GridPoint’s energy management console for grid monitoring and control.
“Our first several units, delivered in cooperation with GridPoint and Saft, are headed for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s High Penetration Solar program. Based on this success, we have already signed a contract for three more units with greater battery capacity for another utility in California,” said Dr. Glenn Skutt, PowerHub’s President. “We are extremely excited to be part of this project to integrate renewable energy into the conventional power grid on a large scale. And we look forward to future deployments that prove out the benefits of utility controlled distributed energy storage. ”
As electricity demand grows and our electric power grid ages, the ability to safely store and then dispatch electricity in local distribution networks becomes more important. PowerHub’s CE-3034 installation is the first in a line of bidirectional battery storage systems, also referred to as Community Energy Storage (CES) units, and is designed to give utilities interactive infrastructure at the edge of the grid, enabling new means to increase efficiency, reliability and security in power delivery. These “smart batteries” will be located in neighborhoods alongside distribution transformers, the familiar green boxes, and will be coordinated through wireless communications. The batteries store and then re-deliver power from intermittent renewable sources like residential solar and wind, providing many grid-enhancing advantages.
Jack Lesko, Vice President for Engineering and Business Development, said, “The 30-kilowatt, 34 kilowatt-hour above-ground unit is compact, secure, and fits on a standard concrete pad for transformers, allowing for easy installation and operation. We are hopeful that this will blaze a trail for other municipalities and power providers to move into the world of renewable energy.”
Jim Flowers of VT KnowledgeWorks located in the VT Corporate Research Center comments that, “I am very proud to have PowerHub as one of our growing startups in the KnowledgeWorks program, and look forward to further expansion of PowerHub’s efforts in the park.”
In addition to PowerHub’s launch out of the VT KnowledgeWorks program, the Virginia Tech Foundation also supported this startup through an early stage investment. “This is just one example of how Virginia Tech, the VT Foundation and the VT Corporate Research Center can work together to commercialize technologies to the world while creating higher paying technology jobs in the region,” remarked Ray Smoot, CEO of the Virginia Tech Foundation.
PowerHub Systems is a spin-off company from VPT Inc. and was established in 2008 by Drs. Glenn Skutt & Jack Lesko the support of VPT President Dr. Dan Sable and VPT CFO John Hodock. The company originally leveraged research conducted at Virginia Tech’s Center for Power Electronics dealing with integrated renewable energy systems and vehicle-to-grid technologies. Dr. Fred Lee, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and member of the National Academy of Engineering commented that “it is gratifying to see successful companies lead by the graduates of CPES and to see the research investments of Virginia Tech and the National Science Foundation come to commercial reality.” Drs. Sable and Skutt, as well as Dr. Tim Thacker, Senior Engineer at PowerHub, are all graduates of the CPES center.
About PowerHub Systems
PowerHub Systems develops interoperable distributed power conversion and energy storage systems for utility smart grid compliant applications. Our bidirectional power flow control and communications system enables reliable, secure, and decentralized energy storage to be deployed at the distribution circuit level of the power grid.
About GridPoint, Inc.
GridPoint, an established leader in smart energy solutions, helps Fortune 500 enterprises, government agencies and utilities develop and execute energy strategies that improve operational efficiency and maximize savings. For more information, visit GridPoint, Inc.
VT KnowledgeWorks encourages and enables creative entrepreneurship world-wide, through innovative curriculum, local business resource centers, and a global network of cooperating regions, all focused on three essential contributors to success: clear understanding of fundamental business principles; access to timely, relevant information; and meaningful personal and corporate relationships. It is a subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Foundation, funded through the continuing confidence and enthusiasm of its clients, sponsors and friends, both corporate and individual. Its world headquarters are located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.
VT KnowledgeWorks sponsors include Attaain, Inc., BB&T, The Branch Group, Handshake 2.0, Harris Office Furniture, Hodges, Jones & Mabry, P.C., Hutchison Law Group, LeClairRyan, New River Valley Intellectual Property Law, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and The Becher Agency (TBA).