Historically, general purpose control solutions were implemented using technology called ‘Programable Logic Controllers’ or PLC’s which in the late 1960’s replaced the electro-mechanical control solutions of the past. These PLCs allow a control solution to be ‘developed’ by programming experts using technology like ladder logic to develop applications in various industries, anything from power industry applications to amusement park rides. However, the complexity of the applications now being deployed in storage solutions require a new generation of control solutions purpose built for energy storage.
These new solutions:
1. Are hardware agnostic thus avoiding hardware vendor lock-in.
2. Designed with a specific use case in mind, simplifying the design, deployment, upgrade, and operations.
3. Enforce code reuse and industry best practices reducing new development costs.
4. Facilitate future solution integrations and expansion to support new user cases.
5. Use the latest UI technology to enable users without a programming background to configure rather than program functionality into solutions.
These benefits are now expanding into the power industry with purpose-built power applications such as EV charging, power generation as well as energy storage.
Today, the power industry is going through a renaissance driven by new cost-effective power solutions. Just as with the evolution of solar, the energy storage industry expansion started with hardware price reductions reaping the benefits of economies of scale. However, as the industry expands, there is a need for new purpose-built software-based control solutions to evolve. Thereby reducing the soft costs built into the commissioning and operations of these sites. This type of software evolution is a long-standing trend in the software industry. In the past, companies built their own software applications such as computer operating systems, databases, and salesforce management systems. However, as these applications matured, companies learned the benefits of outsourcing their application needs to software vendors to gain competitive advantages to their businesses.
In many ways storage is a prime candidate to benefit from purpose-built software control solutions. Unlike solar, storage solutions have many unique ways of delivering benefits to asset owners. These benefits, like demand charge reduction, ancillary services, as well as load shifting can often be stacked one on top of the other, creating complicated control algorithms. The challenge grows even further when adding generation such as solar which then requires hybrid control solutions managing both the storage and solar in a complementary solution. Just as companies used to build and maintain their own operating systems and databases for their business applications; companies using PLC technology need to retest the new code specifically developed for each application. New purpose-built control solutions reduce development cost, commissioning risk and operational costs by using pre-tested solutions that are not unique to a specific site. Additionally, updating old sites to take advantage of newer technology or ‘updates’ to the software can be done in hours vs weeks.
As a result, of these new solution improvements, customers are not fated to run their assets with old technology solutions built in the past, but rather can become more agile and better control their destiny using new updates that address today’s business challenges.