Demand Energy ends year with Costa Rica deal

Demand Energy's battery systems will go towards helping Costa Rica maintain its pristine environment. Pic: Pixabay.

Demand Energy’s battery systems will go towards helping Costa Rica maintain its pristine environment. Pic: Pixabay.

By Jason Deign

Energy storage systems developer Demand Energy and Latin America microgrid pioneer Rio Grande Renewables this week announced a record-breaking project in Costa Rica.

The two companies have commissioned a battery storage-plus-solar-PV microgrid at Establishment Labs, a Costa Rican medical manufacturing plant, said Demand Energy in a press release.

The microgrid is said to be the largest in Central America and includes a 500kW, 1MWh lithium-ion battery connected to 276kW of solar PV.

The system is designed to provide multiple on-site and grid-assisting services, including peak demand reduction, solar variability smoothing and backup power for critical loads in the event of an outage.

It is controlled by Demand Energy’s Distributed Energy Network Operating System (DEN.OS™), which optimises how energy storage, distributed generation and other distributed energy resources interact and perform. 

Smoothly integrating intermittent solar

Under normal conditions, the system will smoothly integrate intermittent solar PV for on-site self-consumption. When an outage occurs, the microgrid will island itself off from the grid and continue operating in a standalone mode.

“Like most sensitive manufacturing and laboratory operations, the Establishment Labs facility must receive a continuous flow of quality power,” said Shane Johnson, vice president of operations for Demand Energy.

“This DEN.OS-controlled intelligent microgrid offers a rapid payback thanks to significant savings from peak power reduction, and it will deliver instantaneous back-up power to support clean-room operations when needed.”

This, in turn, will prevent Establishment Labs from suffering production losses during outages.

The system also eliminates the stranded costs of traditional diesel generators while offering a healthy return on investment through optimising renewable solar generation, according to Johnson. 

Renewable energy optimisation potential

The renewable energy optimisation potential is particularly relevant given Costa Rica’s goal to be the world’s first carbon-neutral country, in 2021, he said.

Establishment Labs’ chief operating officer, Salvador Dada, said: “We are committed to long-term environmental sustainability and green manufacturing, and value our partnership with Rio Grande Renewables and Demand Energy.

“They were instrumental in helping us finance and construct the first state-of-the-art storage-plus-solar PV microgrid in Costa Rica.

“This investment will not only provide critical back-up power capability, it will also make our manufacturing plant more energy efficient and help us obtain Carbon Neutral and LEED Gold certifications.”

Dada said Establishment Labs would “consider this type of technology in all our future plant designs.” 

Demand for microgrids set to grow

And Brian Schmidly, president of Rio Grande Renewables, said: “We expect to see demand for microgrids grow as customer awareness increases and the benefits are clearly demonstrated.

“We applaud Establishment Labs for taking a leadership position on environmentally responsible manufacturing and for being the first in the region to deploy this technology to help save money and compete internationally.”

The Costa Rica deal comes hot on the heels of another significant win for Demand Energy, which to date has been the most successful developer of behind-the-meter energy storage projects in New York State, USA.

Earlier this month Demand Energy said it would design and deliver a lithium-ion battery system as part of the first microgrid to be deployed under Con Edison’s Brooklyn-Queens Neighborhood Program (BQNP) in New York.

The multi-resource microgrid will be implemented at the 625-unit Marcus Garvey Apartments in Brooklyn, owned by L+M Development Partners, a large owner and developer of affordable housing. 

Battery arrays controlled by DEN.OS

The microgrid will be made up of a 400kW solar PV system and 400kW fuel cell, supported by a 300kW, 1.2MWh lithium-ion battery array controlled by DEN.OS.

The system will manage the generation and storage of renewable energy to save money through demand-charge reduction.

It will also provide resiliency during an outage, lower operational costs, deliver essential load relief for Con Edison and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Demand Energy said in a press note.

A key technical aspect of the project is the ability of Demand Energy’s DEN.OS to ensure that the housing development self-consumes any energy it generates, without exporting to the grid.

This capability is in line with Con Edison’s BQNP requirements, which facilitated the interconnection and permitting process. 

Needing load relief in peak summer periods

New York City needs electric load relief during peak summer periods to avoid over-taxing existing substation resources, which can lead to power interruptions and cutbacks.

L+M has made significant investment in Marcus Garvey Apartments, a 625-unit low-income complex in the heart of Brownsville, which is the primary substation strained by summer operations.

The operational savings will enable L+M to place additional funding toward programmes that enhance quality of life for tenants.

“L+M is excited to integrate this intelligently controlled, energy storage-based microgrid system at Marcus Garvey Apartments,” said Josh Weisstuch, project manager at L+M Development Partners.

“This installation is an important part of a portfolio-wide effort to use renewable energy to enhance property sustainability and residents’ quality of life in line with our double bottom line approach to development.”

“A flagship system for New York City”

Doug Staker, vice president of global sales for Demand Energy, called the project “a flagship system for New York City and for the partners involved.”

He said: “The project is impressive for many reasons: it will save money, reduce load, ensure reliability, integrate renewables and decrease emissions.

“It’s also being financed through non-recourse debt, which is standard in the solar industry but to our knowledge has not yet been utilised for energy storage projects.”

The New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation, a non-profit finance company that offers loans and alternative financing solutions for energy efficiency and clean energy projects, provided a 10-year project loan.

L+M and Demand Energy have agreed on a “shared savings” operating model to cover debt service and share in revenue generated, allowing both to collaborate to produce the greatest return possible.

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