S&C Electric switches gears in the energy storage, microgrid space

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Chicago’s S&C Electric was one of the first companies to take a deep dive into energy storage. And while the employee-owned manufacturer and intergrator appears to be as optimistic as it has ever been about energy storage, microgrids and the transformation of the electric grid, it is shifting approaches in terms of its presence in this space.

S&C has confirmed to pv magazine that it is discontinuing its Pure Wave SMS line of inverters to accompany battery storage and now plans to purchase inverters from other suppliers for its battery integration business. The company says that this is a natural response to the growth of the market.

“We are a manufacturer of custom, standard equipment,” S&C Electric Senior Director for Global Business Development David Chiesa told pv magazine. “We make a standard product, then customize it for our customers.”

Chiesa notes that this approach is not as well suited to the current conditions of the battery storage market. “We have seen in the marketplace where other manufacturers are taking advantage of scale and driving this to a high volume market.”

However, this does not mean that S&C is existing the energy storage and microgrid space – far from it. In fact, Chiesa says that no employees will be laid off with the discontinuation of the product line, but instead are being re-assigned to other product lines.

Along with this, S&C says that it is “doubling down” on its offerings for microgrids. This includes both its medium voltage switchgear offerings, as well as the Gridmaster microgrid controller line that it acquired through its purchase of IPERC in 2016.

“It allows us to refocus in the area where we have real competitive advantage,” explains Chiesa. He mentions medium-voltage utility-scale grids as a main focus for the company and notes that the company will be repurposing the facilities that made the Pure Wave line for test space and other purposes to support the new focus.

S&C began making this move in early January, however Chiesa notes that it is still producing a limited number of Pure Wave SMS inverters for existing customers as it transitions these accounts to other inverters.

As for the future, Chiesa says that he expects microgrids will be “ubiquitous” over a 10-year horizon. “I don’t think they are going to be called microgrids anymore,” Chiesa muses. “I think they are going to be called ‘the grid’”.