Concurrent Design, Inc. Receives U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Grant for Smart Energy Switch


SunShot

Project team will develop hardware needed to coordinate operations of rooftop solar panels, home batteries, natural gas generators and electric grid.

Would make it possible for homes with solar panels, gas generators and batteries to operate off-grid during power outages or even for sustained periods.

(AUSTIN, TX - November 17, 2015) Concurrent Design, Inc. has received a one-year, $1 million cooperative award from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. With support from Pecan Street Inc., the company will develop an advanced prototype of Energy Switch, a home energy device that manages the flow of electricity between a home, the home’s solar panels, an on-site battery, back-up generation, and the electric grid. Pecan Street has already developed and successfully tested the concept in its Pike Powers Lab in Austin. The SunShot award will allow Concurrent Design and Pecan Street to produce and test a more advanced prototype that demonstrates full commercial capability and can serve as a reference design for a new category of residential energy products.

Despite significant technology advances in solar photovoltaics, batteries and other distributed energy technologies over the past decade, a critical technology gap prevents these technologies from working together. For instance, what if a homeowner or group of homeowners wants to combine rooftop solar panels, a gas generator, and a battery system to provide emergency backup generation to one or more grid-connected homes in the event of power outages? What if they want to combine these products to operate a microgrid?

Such solutions require a hardware router that can intelligently move electricity between these various sources and can, when necessary, prioritize which electricity demands to serve. For example, this capability might be needed during power outages after hurricanes to ensure that refrigerators can operate or when a homeowner’s electricity demand exceeds the available energy from the battery, solar panels, and generators.

“People can install their own solar panels and a home battery. They can even buy back-up gas generators,” said Pecan Street CTO Bert Haskell, a former MCC and HelioVolt executive who is leading hardware development efforts. “But the pieces don’t integrate well, so they are far less effective than the sum of their parts. If we want smarter homes that take advantage of innovation in solar and energy storage, we need tools to make sense of all the new customer options.”

Energy Switch will clear a path for widespread adoption of residential microgrids that feature solar, storage, and even back-up generators. Pecan Street’s prototype eliminates redundant components, custom onsite design, and labor costs of residential microgrids, making them simpler and less expensive to design and faster to install.

“Energy Switch fills a critical gap in the implementation of a smart, automated energy system that customers can take full advantage of,” said Thomas Ortman, president of Concurrent Design. “Customers have more options every year, and Energy Switch will make them all work better, smarter and more reliably. There is no question that this technology will happen. We are delighted to help this move along with the help of the DOE SunShot Initiative.”

Energy Switch works with legacy residential infrastructure and appliances as well as new construction and smart appliances.


SunShot Initiative

About the SunShot Initiative
The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.


Concurrent Design, Inc.

About Concurrent Design
Concurrent Design is a complete engineering design and build firm located in Austin, Texas, providing support for any part of the product design process or the design of the manufacturing tools and systems that make those products. With core strengths in mechanical engineering and manufacturing engineering, Concurrent Design excels at engineering design in industrial, commercial and consumer product sectors. Learn more at www.concurrentdesign.com.

Contact: Concurrent Design, Inc., info@concurrentdesign.com, 512-219-8501


Pecan Street Inc.

About Pecan Street
Located at The University of Texas at Austin, Pecan Street provides university researchers, utilities and technology companies with access to the world’s best original data on consumer energy and water consumption behavior, testing and verification of technology solutions, and commercialization services.

Its network of over 1,200 research volunteers is the first of its kind on the planet. Its anonymized research database, the largest source of disaggregated customer energy data, is used by university researchers from over 175 universities in 38 nations, along with industry-leading companies around the world.

Pecan Street is a 501(c)(3) applied research and commercialization institute. Learn more at pecanstreet.org.

Contact: Colin Rowan, Pecan Street, media@pecanstreet.org, 512-222-9603


Related information
ENERGY.GOV >>> Website Announcement of Award & Project Profile
PECAN STREET, Inc. >>> Award Press Release


Concurrent Design, Inc. completes U.S. Department of Energy, EERE SunShot Initiative, Cooperative Agreement for Smart Energy Switch


SunShot Initiative

(AUSTIN, TX - May 02, 2017) A bit over a year ago, Concurrent Design felt as if we had won the Academy Award of Solar Power, when Concurrent Design and it's partner Pecan Street, were awarded a DOE EERE SunShot Award.

Now, as Concurrent Design has just finished the final reporting for the project, it is time to report that we have completed a very successful project. The goal of the $1.25M ($250K in cost share) was to develop The Energy Switch. This residential appliance, sized similarly to a refrigerator, is a "home micro-grid in a box", complete with energy storage. The product allows for the redirecting (switching) of energy, creating a bi-directional energy flow, whereas previously the grid to home relationship was one directional only. The sources: the grid, your solar system(s), wind turbines, geo-thermal, etc., along with your available storage can be directed to any of your selected loads. In this case, the loads could include your lights or refrigerator, as well as any available storage. Storage might include The Energy Switch onboard storage (9.6 kW-hr), your Tesla PowerWall, electric car, or even the grid itself.

Five operating modes provide for considerable flexibility in energy management. Common scenarios would include; store all excess solar power for use after the sun goes down, to minimize electric bills. In the case of a grid outage you can select critical loads (branch circuits), and make adjustments, depending on the available sources. For example; a sunny day after a storm when the grid is out, may generate excess energy allowing for storage charging, as opposed to a rainy day when storage becomes the only source and the owner may elect to reduce the loads. More sophisticated user scenarios may allow for an energy arbitrage - selling all available energy back to the grid when demand (and tariffs) are high. In the very near future, when your electric car can also serve as a source as well as a load, additional scenarios are created.

As part of the SunShot project, Concurrent Design, Inc. and Pecan Street, Inc., along with substantive support from Linestar Automation;

  • developed an engineering proof of concept for the Open ARMS control system
  • developed and built a full featured Alpha Prototype Energy Switch product
  • developed and built three complete Beta Prototype Energy Switch products
  • installed these units at two local Austin residences, as well as at the Pecan Street - Pike Powers Lab
  • received NREL personnel as third party reviewers for a Site Acceptance Test and confirmation of all operating parameters; (Ref Report HERE)
  • conducted extensive market research and incorporated the results into the current design generation as well as serving as potential ideas / features for the next generation product
  • initiated activities to identify interested parties for potential channel partners for ongoing development

Having just completed the final Department of Energy paperwork filing activities, we are pleased to report that the project is widely considered a complete success. Images are available below. Please let us know if you have questions or inquiries about the project or product.

Sunshot Energy Switch
Sunshot Energy Switch
Sunshot Energy Switch
Sunshot Energy Switch
Sunshot Energy Switch
Sunshot Energy Switch