Behind-the-meter solar sharing technology from Australia
Allume Energy’s Australian-developed SolShare product, which allows multiple energy consumers in, say, an apartment block, to share the benefits of a single rooftop solar array, has achieved certification which will allow it to enter the potential AU$102 billion (US$75.2 billion) United States market.
As the world’s first behind-the-meter solar sharing technology, SolShare is used to knocking it out of the ballpark, but becoming the first Power Division Control System (PDCS) to be UL certified is a game-changer.
UL is a leading global safety science organization with one of the highest trust ratings in the world and getting its stamp of approval “is a huge milestone,” said Kristy Battista, Allume Energy’s chief technology officer in an announcement on Friday.
“To confirm that the SolShare continues to operate, or shuts down in a controlled manner when exposed to operating extremes that are rarely experienced in the real world, provides further validation of Allume’s thorough design and internal testing approach,” said Battista of the abnormal overloads, induced failures in components, extreme temperatures and other stresses that the product was exposed to in the course of UL testing.
SolShare has already achieved many milestones at home in Australia, including winning this year’s Clean Energy Council Innovation Award. The CEC said that in the first six months of the technology’s deployment on a community housing building in Melbourne it met 39% of all resident’s electricity demand from a single PV system and battery, “and reduced each apartment’s electricity bill by over [AU]$155 [US$114].”
Technology that enables a fair transition
To manage this fair distribution of available solar energy, the SolShare sits behind the meter, constantly monitoring the energy demands of all energy consumers connected to its system, and proportionally allocates generated energy at any given time.
Allume Energy’s co-founder and CEO, Cameron Knox, explained to pv magazineearlier this year, that everyone hooked up to a SolShare device “receives an equal allocation and they receive this allocation at the time when they will save the most money.”
That is, “if you and I are neighbors in an apartment building and I leave on holiday for the first two weeks of the month, the SolShare system would recognize that I’m not using much power and therefore I would not benefit much from my solar allocation. My solar allocation will be held back and more may be sent to other users within the system. When I return and begin to use my power, SolShare will recognize this and start to send through my solar allocation.”
Allume Energy has been testing and iterating its product in the Australian market since 2016 and installations on social housing are saving residents money on their electricity bills in the ACT, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.
In December last year, Allume Energy was also chosen to provide its technology to publicly listed property developer Mirvac, for deployment on its multi-tenanted residential and commercial properties.
The first installation will be at Mirvac’s luxury Folia apartments, in Melbourne’s Doncaster, which are now close to completion.
Made for Australia, the SolShare has found broader application
SolShare is a solution “developed for the peculiarities of the Australian market, where we have low feed-in tariffs but a high demand for solar,” Alexander Marks, Allume Energy’s chief operating officer, told pv magazine today, “so it’s been optimized for this market but it turns out it has applicability overseas.”
Having realized its potential to fulfill the needs of the U.S. market at an early stage in the development of the SolShare, the company has simultaneously pursued a certification and test pilot path in both markets.
Says Marks: “We’ve been working since mid 2019 in Illinois and in North Carolina. And we’ve been aiming to get this certification so we can proceed with pilot installs of our technology on some low-income housing in Los Angeles.”
From January this year, California introduced a requirement that all new homes, including apartment buildings of up to three storeys high, must have solar installed as part of the build. “We’ve got the solution to help that demand,” says Marks.
The company has been supported in California by start-up accelerator Elemental Excelerator, and also has a partnership lined up with Sunrun, a leading installer of solar systems and battery systems across the U.S.
No known competitors
Allume Energy’s research indicates that the United States has some 22.2 million occupied “multi-family units” – as apartment buildings are called in U.S. property parlance – of which around 75% have roof space suitable for solar. It has calculated that, “this represents a US$75 billion market opportunity.”
As yet, the SolShare is peerless, meaning it has no hardware competitors in the market. In the U.S., Marks tells pv magazine, “what they call virtual net metering is in some ways an alternative to SolShare but it requires co-operation from the distribution network, which has to set up a special tariff, which can take years of regulatory engagement and is quite slow to come about in the various distribution networks – in Australia we have some 16 distribution network service providers, in the U.S. they have around 3,000.”
Having achieved UL1741 certification – the standard for inverters, converters, controllers and interconnection system equipment for use with distributed energy resources – the future looks promising for Allume Energy in the U.S. and other markets which similarly rely on the UL mark of approval.
Marks says it’s been a long road to achieve this commercializing recognition, and that perhaps if he, Knox and Battista had known how long it would take, they may not have persisted with the development of SolShare. Instead they pursued one milestone at a time, to achieve the company vision of providing everyone, not just property owners, with access to rooftop solar.
“Solar is definitely the best way to reduce people’s electricity bills after reaping all the low-hanging fruit of replacing incandescent globes with CFLs or LEDs,” says Marks. “The outcomes that we’ve had on social housing have been excellent, reducing people’s summer electricity bills by up to 40% and taking that bill shock pressure off them.”