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Published on June 5th, 2015 | by Tina Casey

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“Stealth” Woman-Owned Startup Nails Tesla Battery For Hybrid-Electric Buildings

June 5th, 2015 by  


A little startup called Advanced Microgrid Solutions has just scored an agreement with Tesla Motors for 500 megawatt-hours worth of Tesla battery power, to be used in a cutting edge project it calls Hybrid-Electric Buildings™. Like the rest of the world, we know all about Tesla (we’ve got 944 articles in those archives), but this thing called Advanced Microgrid Solutions has been flying way under our radar and we have some catching up to do.

Not for nothing but Advanced Microgrid Systems (AMS) is a woman-owned business, and one of those owners (and cofounders) is Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, former Assistant Secretary of the US Navy. We mention that because the Navy is all over alternative energy and microgrids, including shipboard microgrids. Then there’s the SPIDERS microgrid project run by the Departments of Defense and Energy, but you get the idea.

Tesla battery microgrid

Advanced Microgrid Solutions

Actually, AMS has been attracting notice in some quarters. Last fall, the US Department of Energy took note when AMS announced that Southern California Edison engaged it to develop the first “fleet” of hybrid-electric buildings in the world.

That agreement was part of a larger program the utility initiated to meet peak power demand, to fill in the gap as its aging gas-fired and nuclear power plants are at or near the end of their useful lives.

Basically, AMS is leveraging distributed energy and storage to create virtual power plants. Here’s how AMS describes its Hybrid-Electric Buildings project:

AMS’s Hybrid-Electric BuildingsTM Project deploys large networks of battery systems in targeted buildings where electric utilities need grid support. AMS can seamlessly shift an entire fleet of buildings from grid power to battery power providing real time support to the electric grid. Building owners get paid for being part of the solution to today’s energy challenge.



 

The Tesla Battery Hookup — And Black & Veatch, Too

Fast forward to this week, and AMS has hitched its star to the legendary-in-a-blink Tesla battery brand.

Along with sister sites we’ve been following the launch of the Tesla battery for homes as well as commercial applications and research, and the AMS Tesla battery announcement steps things up a notch.

The idea is for AMS to use up to 500 megawatt-hours (MWh) of Tesla batteries, in partnership with the company Black & Veatch, for engineering and construction services.

If Black & Veatch rings a bell, you could be thinking of any number of microgrid and renewable energy projects the global firm has a hand in, including the construction of fueling stations for fuel cell electric vehicles in California.

The point is, if the Tesla brand is enough to give AMS street cred, the association with Black & Veatch puts it over the top.

Here’s the rundown from AMS:

AMS will install and operate Tesla’s Powerpack energy storage systems in commercial and industrial facilities to provide grid support to utilities using customer load.

[snip]

The combination of energy storage technology and intelligent software will allow customer loads to be used as a virtual power plant by utilities. AMS will aggregate the distributed systems into regional “fleets” that provide clean, fully dispatchable load reduction to utilities.

Don’t hold your breath for the first Hybrid-Electric Building project to be up and running this year — it’s not due to be installed until next year, in Irvine, California.

Also, don’t be surprised if AMS goes on beyond the Tesla battery. In announcing the new deal, AMS hinted that it’s open to other offers:

AMS will also sign battery supply agreements with additional technology providers.

AMS also notes that it uses a “technology-agnostic approach.”

If the Hybrid-Electric Building model takes off, the Tesla battery could be facing competition from flow batteries, fuel cells, and who knows what else.

If you have any ideas about what else, drop us a note in the comment thread.

Before we leave AMS behind, let’s note that the company’s social responsibility profile is pretty impressive:

A certified woman-owned business, AMS will donate a portion of its proceeds to a micro-lending fund for women, minority and veteran-owned businesses.

To that end, the company has partnered with the organization Working Solutions and the leading California microfinancer Opportunity Fund, which is no small potatoes. Here’s some snippets from the website:

…We say “Yes!” to small business owners, low-income students, and families because entrepreneurship, education, and sound financial habits are proven pathways to greater economic opportunity.

Our strategy combines microloans for small business owners and microsavings accounts to help students pay for college and families save for a rainy day. As California’s leading microfinance provider, our team has deployed $83 million and helped more than 8,000 people since 1994.

Let’s also note that while legacy oil-and-gas companies are pushing the idea that coal is passing the torch to natural gas, the AMS-Tesla announcement underscores how energy storage is a power generation game-changer that has positioned renewable energy to leapfrog right over natural gas.

Yes, we’re talking about you, ExxonMobil.

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Image Credit (screenshot): Tesla Model X Courtesy of Tesla Motors
 
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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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