A description of the sonnenCommunity reads like a science-fiction account of the future of distributed energy: a network of homes and businesses with peer-to-peer electricity trading from PV and battery storage systems.
It’s the sort of thing that can happen in Germany’s liberalized electricity market, where you can also buy power from Greenpeace. But it is not the sort of thing that one sees coming any time soon to the United States, with our anachronistic monopoly utilities and very different set of rules, even in our “deregulated” markets.
That is, until now. Battery integrator sonnen has announced a partnership which will enable it to deploy a rooftop solar- and battery-powered microgrid in a new development in Arizona. Under the partnership with Mandalay Homes, sonnen will deploy over 10 MW* of PV and 11.6 MW of battery storage systems on 2,900 new homes in the Jasper master planned community in Prescott Valley.
The system will feature electricity trading between these systems. And while the system is still connected to the electric grid managed by utility Arizona Public Service (APS), the Jasper sonnenCommunity aims to minimize power flow back to the APS grid, while absorbing excess power during times of extra electricity supply and limited demand.
“This will be a benefit to APS’ grid,” sonnen Director of Business Development Olaf Lohr told pv magazine. Flohr explains that the systems will allow the community to meet its own power needs during most times, including 3-8 PM, the hours of peak demand on the APS grid.
Flohr estimates that the systems will allow residents to be 75-80% energy independent, with bills around $24 per month. The community’s batteries will absorb power from the grid during the hours of 2-5 AM, when the Palo Verde nuclear power plant is running but demand from the system is low, and also during 10 AM to 2 PM, the time when Arizona’s substantial solar capacity is at peak output.
Exchange with APS will be handled under a pre-existing rate design offered by the utility.
Part of what allows the Jasper sonnenCommunity to achieve this feat is the design of the houses themselves. Mandalay Homes is an award-winning builder of energy efficient homes, and despite the desert climate sonnen says that the houses will not need air conditioning due to the design.
The new community is expected to break ground soon, with the first residents moving in during Q2 and Q3 2018. From here sonnen states that it is looking for additional opportunities working with homebuilders to expand the sonnenCommunity to other developments, with a focus on new homes.
Correction: This article was corrected at 8:30 AM EST on October 16. A previous version of this article stated that the sonnenCommunity in Arizona would host 10 GW of solar. This was a typo, and the article has been corrected to state that this is MW, now GW.