New software tool helps utilities, customers evaluate energy storage

May 25, 2021

by Peter Maloney
APPA News
May 25, 2021

Sandia National Laboratories has released a software tool designed to help utilities and utility customers assess the economic value of installing an energy storage system.

The software suite, known as Quest, currently has two principal tools: a behind-the-meter tool for businesses or organizations such as schools and hospitals and a market-analysis tool to help utilities assess how much revenue an energy storage system would generate.

The open source software is available for download on the Quest page of Sandia’s website.

The behind-the-meter tool allows business owners or city project managers to estimate how much money an energy storage system could save them when combined with solar panels or other power generation sources.

To use the behind-the-meter tool, a customer inputs their location and the rate structure they pay to determine if a storage system could save them money by shifting their energy use away from peak times when rates are high. The software can be adjusted to reflect the kind of renewable power system the customer has or would like to install.

“For example, a homeowner or a warehouse manager who knows nothing about energy storage but wants to install it for their rooftop solar panels, can use Quest’s streamlined process to learn how much money the energy storage system would save them over a year,” Tu Nguyen, a Sandia electrical engineer who led the development of the optimization algorithms underpinning Quest, said in a statement.

The market-analysis tool is designed to allow small utilities determine how much revenue an energy storage system could generate by providing services to enhance grid stability and reliability. The tool uses historical data for the seven energy markets in North America, including the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO).

“We’re providing an easy-to-use, open-source software suite that people can use to do their own energy storage analysis,” Babu Chalamala, manager of Sandia’s energy storage research program, said in a statement. “They could be small utilities or co-ops, vertically integrated utility companies or a project developer who wants to use energy storage.” The software can be used to evaluate the needs of a particular project and to determine if energy storage make sense and to provide a cost-benefit analysis, he said.

Sandia says Quest can also be used by energy researchers to evaluate different energy storage scenarios and model the potential of new solutions. “In our cutting-edge storage installations, we start by modeling the business case with Quest,” Imre Gyuk, who directs the energy storage program at the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity, said in a statement. “If the results look promising to us and our project partners, we go ahead with the venture. After completion, we monitor the system using Quest for guidance and to optimize benefits.”

“Quest is a useful application suite for a lot of utilities, a kind of tool that isn’t really available commercially,” Chalamala said. The application’s “foundational capabilities” can set the stage for further development of any other applications people need to develop, he said.

The Sandia team that developed Quest is also working with PNM, New Mexico’s largest electricity provider, to develop a tool to help vertically integrated utilities assess the different paths for achieving reliable 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045.

The Quest team is also investigating the costs and benefits of adding energy storage to the New Mexico grid in comparison with transmission-infrastructure expansion to better transport power from renewable energy power plants to cities. When the new tools have been developed and tested, they will be added to Quest for any utility or researcher to use.

Another tool the Quest team is working on would help evaluate resilient microgrids and would help consumers compare different kinds of energy storage technologies depending on their locations and applications. The team is also working on a cost-analysis tool and a tool for comparing different battery technologies as they age.

Longer term, Sandia would like to include a distribution-modeling tool to quantify how energy storage can help increase the amount of solar power the grid can safely handle before the control systems need to be upgraded.

Sandia National Laboratories is operated and managed by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC., a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International, Inc.

National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia operates Sandia National Laboratories as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and supports numerous federal, state, and local government agencies, companies, and organizations.

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