Advancements in technology have made renewable energy the fastest growing energy source in the U.S. Though last year’s surge in microgrid installations underscored the need for energy resilience, recent projects nearly came to a halt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for resilience and environmental sustainability is arguably more important than ever, so it becomes critical that clean energy providers can maintain a steady schedule of installations despite new restrictions.

At a time when most of the world went virtual and business travel was put on hold, Ageto’s innovative technology made commissioning a commercial-scale microgrid project possible – from over 1,300 miles away.

Net-Zero Housing Community Enables Sustainable Living
In Mid-City New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2020, national disaster resilience and recovery organization SBP and clean energy provider Solar Alternatives were underway turning a 50-unit apartment building into Louisiana’s first net-zero energy commercial facility – and the state’s first commercial microgrid. St. Peter Apartments, which provides housing for veterans and mixed-income residents, showcases the positive impact of clean energy on community resilience and mitigating climate change while offering affordable electricity to residents.

With over 450 solar PV panels from SunPower and battery energy storage from Dynapower and Samsung, the 178kW system featured Ageto’s ARC microgrid controller and is estimated to generate over one million dollars in lifetime energy cost savings. The state-of-the-art microgrid system provides critical backup power during grid outages, while each apartment unit is equipped with high efficiency appliances and efficient energy management to ensure a low carbon impact with minimal energy bills for residents.

Built-in Benefit of Remote Technology 
Though the site’s solar equipment was sourced locally, Ageto shipped its controller equipment from Ft. Collins, Colorado to New Orleans to be installed, pre-pandemic. As standard with all Ageto projects, Ageto then planned to send a team onsite to commission the system and train the customers.

Rather than delaying the project due to travel restrictions, the Ageto team adapted, using its innovative technology to successfully commission the project entirely from Ft. Collins. Using the controller’s built-in remote screen sharing feature, Ageto was able to talk with Solar Alternatives’ onsite engineer and walk them through the process in real-time. Solar Alternatives was also able to configure the PV inverters based on Ageto’s instructions.

The controller’s remote functionality was originally designed to provide system operators and the Ageto team with real-time insights into system performance, but in this case, it provided an inherent benefit that allowed the project to be completed without ever stepping foot onsite.

“Through Ageto’s controls, we could access the system remotely and communicate step-by-step with Solar Alternatives, who acted as our eyes and ears in the field,” said Anthony Johnson, CTO of Ageto Energy. “Fortunately for us, when travel bans hit we didn’t have to scramble to find a solution; we already had one built-in.”

Streamlining Commissioning Process for Microgrid Partners 
Just as Ageto was unable to travel, the other project partners could not commission their technology onsite either. However, through Ageto’s remote gateway, which was connected on the local area network in the microgrid, all vendors were able to access the microgrid for their own remote commissioning without needing an independent remote connection to each energy resource. Not only did this reduce overall system cost and complexity, it also ensured a secure cybersecurity connection.

Johnson also credits the success of this remote commissioning to Ageto’s prior experience with both the inverter and battery providers, which were part of a catalog of assets programmed within the Ageto ARC™ software, as well as the technical aptitude of the on-site engineer. All of this combined helped to not only speed the process but also save time and money for everyone involved.

Then, two days before Hurricane Laura hit New Orleans this past August, Solar Alternatives asked Ageto to prepare the system for potential outages. While Solar Alternatives has a list of parameters they can change within the Ageto control system to maximize energy storage and make sure the microgrid is fully charged, Ageto wanted to make it even simpler. In just a few hours, Ageto created a one-button resilience mode that when activated fully tops off the battery from either onsite solar or from the utility grid.

The St. Peter Apartments project is Ageto’s second remote commissioning to take place during the travel ban, with the first having been completed earlier this year on Harbledown Island, British Columbia, Canada over a satellite internet link.

Although onsite commissioning is still preferred, projects like these prove remote commissionings are possible when necessary. The success of the Louisiana microgrid project demonstrates both the validity of remote commissioning and value of Ageto’s advanced technology to aid in the ongoing adoption of renewable energy.