The BlockEnergy Smart Platform is delivering the new standard for power security and resiliency on Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) — right now. Created by Emera Technologies LLC, (ETL) BlockEnergy introduces the first utility-focused business model for a distributed energy platform using smart technology able to put new residential communities on resilient, renewable power, today.
BlockEnergy is different than any new power system brought to market to date. As a subsidiary of Emera Inc, a utility with $34 billion in assets serving Canada, the U.S. and Caribbean, Emera Technologies was launched by utility, technology and renewable energy experts. Their aim, to remove complexity from today’s power systems by creating the first, modular, plug-and-play electricity platform, able to seamlessly interoperate with the grid. Better yet, BlockEnergy is designed for utility ownership, made to be operated and maintained by local utilities — the same as any other capital asset.
BUSINESS CASE FOR LOCAL UTILITIES + STATE REGULATORS
“I am completely intrigued by the idea of being able to provide superior reliability at the community level by using a step-change in technology. The safer, the simpler, the more modular you make a power platform, the more reliable and cost-effective it is to build and maintain over its lifetime. BlockEnergy is all of these things, and we believe it’s a business model local utilities and their customers will really like,” says Rob Bennett, CEO of Emera Technologies.
As a 30-year utility veteran, serving many years as a utility CEO, Mr. Bennett envisioned BlockEnergy as a way for utilities to better serve customers with safe, reliable, cleaner power, and be effective in helping state regulators immediately meet renewable and resiliency portfolio goals. “The idea of aligning with utilities and enabling customers to have advanced power surety without any hassle, without any personal capital risk, using a front-of-the-meter solution is a sea change in providing renewables and resiliency to residential customers. BlockEnergy gives local utilities a new set of tools to do everything that needs to be done from a customer perspective, while also enhancing the performance of the existing grid. Plus, it’s a turnkey, scalable solution that’s future-proof for growing communities,” said Bennett.
Local utilities are already intrigued by the benefits. New community projects are currently being developed with leading residential developers and builders across the U.S. from California to Florida.
“The electric power market is changing. There are significant market trends that all utilities are facing, such as decarbonization, decentralization and digitization, ”the three D’s.” Those factors are driving significant activity and change in most utilities today. BlockEnergy aligns with these market trends in every way, giving utilities a new power platform to respond to these trends,” said Louise-Anne Comeau, VP of Business Development, ETL
“The beauty of the BlockEnergy Smart Platform is the local utility will buy this system and install it in your neighborhood at no cost to the builder or their home buying customers. They will do this because it’s a front-of-the-meter, power solution that’s fully interoperable with their current grid system,” said Gary Oppedahl, VP of Emerging Technologies for ETL.
“ With BlockEnergy’s utility-focused business model for residential customers, we’re helping local utilities serve their biggest segment of new load growth every year. And, we are doing it with a future-proof, renewable solution with advanced reliability,” says Bennett.
MILITARY-TESTED: KIRTLAND RESILIENCY PROJECT PARTNERSHIPS
Kirtland Air Force Base, (KAFB), is the 6th largest base in the United States Air Force and home of the 377th Air Base Wing, able to act as home base for U.S. government continuity whenever required. Power surety is critical to KAFB’s mission and developing methods of greater power resiliency is paramount to on-base security and their duty for the greater U.S. military.
In 2019, the BlockEnergy Smart Platform was quietly installed on Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico for testing in a pilot project designated, The Kirtland Resiliency Project. The program benefitted from a partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, (SNL) — a premier U.S. Department of Energy advanced research facility — under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, (CRADA) with Emera Technologies.
Their joint mission, “To take bold steps toward energy resiliency, reliability and renewable integration,” said David S. Miller, Colonel, USAF Commander, 377th Air Base Wing at KAFB.
Working with ETL also allows Sandia to extend their research beyond military use, in an effort to, “enable clean, efficient and resilient, direct current microgrids for communities,“ said Program Manager, Sandia National Laboratory, Summer Ferreira.
The result of these partnerships with ETL is the world’s most advanced, secure power platform available today, incorporating rooftop solar, battery storage and distributed controls — in a new and innovative way for maximum resiliency. After turning BlockEnergy on eight months ago for the Kirtland Resiliency Project, the system has performed effortlessly, as intended.
BLOCKENERGY SYSTEM TESTING
Through their joint CRADA, Emera Technologies and Sandia National Labs are currently developing a robust testing program to be implemented over the coming months that will push the BlockEnergy system to its limits, increasing the knowledge and potential for the BlockEnergy platform. Armed with the broad testing and analytical expertise of SNL and DETL, this program will test system functionality and the resiliency of the BlockEnergy platform, including simulated tests such as a sudden loss of grid power, and much more. Access to this highly sophisticated testing capability, specialist equipment and the results of these tests will significantly enhance the ongoing development of the BlockEnergy Smart Platform technology for Emera Technologies.
KIRTLAND RESILIENCY PROJECT + SYSTEM SPECS
The Kirtland Resiliency Project is comprised of a 250 kW microgrid including 100kW of solar and 220 kWh of battery storage. The project uses rooftop solar and modular nanogrids, called BlockBoxes, that contain batteries, power electronics and distributed controls installed at various homes within the project site. In addition, the project hosts a community center on base and in a follow-up phase, will be augmented with a C&I load. These resources are supplemented by other centralized foundations including solar and storage at BlockCentral, a localized area on-site that is a source and sync resource for the microgrid. The platform utilizes a scalable distributed control architecture allowing for seamless integration of new loads into the microgrid. The distributed controls manage ongoing operations of the system in real time, employing artificial intelligence methods.
“We view Kirtland as a Crown Jewel of National Security Complexes. As the sixth largest base in the Air Force, we have an opportunity to continue leading the Department of Defense by taking bold steps towards energy resiliency, reliability and renewable integration. We are looking at sustaining infrastructure and ensuring mission readiness in a way that is safe, secure, reliable, and cost-effective. The Emera Kirtland Resiliency Project is right in line with what we are trying to do. This also positions us as a leader in helping the state of New Mexico meet 2045 renewable portfolio standards, while testing an innovative and practical approach to energy surety and resiliency,” said David S. Miller, Colonel, USAF Commander, 377th Air Base Wing at KAFB.
NEW RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITY DEPLOYMENTS OF BLOCKENERGY
Upcoming residential deployments of BlockEnergy will use modular parts similar to those employed for the Kirtland Resiliency Project. In new neighborhoods, each home receives rooftop solar and a BlockBox containing battery storage and distributed controls. The neighborhood homes are then networked together and interconnected with BlockCentral, a local source that integrates supplemental storage and generation. Together, the BlockBoxes and BlockCentral form self-sustaining, energy loops, referred to as, “BlockLoops.”
BlockEnergy neighborhoods can be independent power systems that operate indefinitely without connecting to the broader power grid, or they can interconnect with the local utility grid, becoming a bi-directional resource with one point of common coupling.
BlockEnergy is the world’s first plug-and-play energy platform. Purpose-built for utilities, it is able to interoperate with the local grid and requires no customized engineering or design to deploy. A simple kit of parts, BlockEnergy is scalable and easily adapts to changing power loads and community growth, delivering safe, renewable energy with superior resilience.
COMING IN OCTOBER – PRODUCT UNVEILING TO THE PUBLIC
The BlockEnergy Smart Platform will be unveiled to the public during North America Smart Energy Week on October 22, 2020. More news to follow.