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Scaling Up Microgrids With Efficient, User-Friendly Software

Microgrids are all the rage, and they have been for a few years. Who doesn’t like the idea of a little self-sustainable, independent grid that ropes in solar power, wind power, battery energy storage, EV charging stations and perhaps a tad of some other less common electricity solutions? It sounds simple: tie them all together and make sure they’re working intelligently to constantly supply energy to the people and businesses who need it.

Of course, when it comes to turning an idea into action, things can get a lot more complicated than they look on the surface. Microgrids are often more complicated and challenging to implement than they look on paper. Also, if someone builds such a system, it is evident they’d like to get their money back on it and then make a profit. Trying to forecast whether that will happen and how to make it happen is even more complicated.

Michael Stadler and Adib Naslé published an article in the academic journal The Electricity Journal a couple of years ago, “Planning and Implementation of Bankable Microgrids,” laying out the “multiple, complex steps and software tools” that were available for implementing and evaluating microgrid projects at the time. A key conclusion: “Existing techniques treat every Microgrid project as a unique system, resulting in expensive, non-standardized approaches and implementations which cannot be reliably compared. That is, it is not possible to correlate the results from different planning methods performed by different project developers and/or engineering companies.” The industry has been lacking uniform approaches and evaluation systems to plan and optimize microgrid systems efficiently and at scale.

Furthermore, the planning and evaluation systems in place were not set up to be easily understandable and usable by different key players in developing, investing in, financing, or approving microgrids. The authors write, “For this sophisticated engineering task, tools and models are needed that can include GridLAB-D (GridLab-D, 2017) […] or OpenDSS, designed by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI, 1997–2018). Some of these analyses introduce considerable complexities and need an engineering background, limiting the usability for certain stakeholders such as bankers, investors, or real estate companies. Furthermore, most of the time, the technical design process (cable and transformer sizing) is completely decoupled from the conceptual design (selecting and placing technologies), and no integration exists, obstructing any data flow. This is especially problematic when the technical design reveals issues with the underlying conceptual design, leading to unplanned engineering time and costs.”

What is their solution? A unified software system with integrated design stages and a user-friendly experience that allows anyone from bankers to engineers to plan, visualize, and optimize a project. And that’s what these guys are now offering through XENDEE — “one single platform, allowing multiple views, complexity levels, and details depending on the user class, i.e., engineer versus financier versus construction consultants.” In fact, XENDEE’s software platform recently won the prestigious 2021 Edison Gold Award in Human Critical Infrastructure. Here’s a video overview, but I’ll cover some of the core company highlights below if you’re not keen on watching the full rundown:

XENDEE describes their platform as a “streamlined interface” that “removes traditional technical barriers and enables new users from business, sales, financial and engineering backgrounds to accurately screen Microgrid investment opportunities in minutes.” This speed and efficiency in validating projects can also be a big deal for companies and government organizations looking to scale microgrid projects faster and further.

Image credit: Xendee

An important element — perhaps the key element — here is that funding institutions and engineers/developers can use the XENDEE platform together to optimize both technical and financial goals. “Additionally, our physically-based economic decision support system couples financial optimization with detailed electrical power system analysis to verify resilience and financial viability before the first cable is laid.”

Image credit: Xendee

You don’t have the technicians looking at one thing, the finance people looking at something else, and a person or team in the middle trying to understand both and translate as needed. Using an old cliche, you don’t end up trying to stuff a square block into a circular hole — and ending up with hair on the floor from frustration and failure.

“XENDEE’s immersive user experience and generative design optimization technology considers millions of possibilities and autonomously creates the optimal Microgrid system, investment thesis, and control strategy that best meets your customer’s envisioned benefits and goals in minutes.”

Naturally, this is marketing talk and pretty pictures of an attractive software platform. The proof is in the pudding. Does this work as eloquently explained? Well, you can’t confirm that without trying it out, and we’d recommend scheduling a product demonstration with a member of the XENDEE team using this link. If your mouth is starting to water and you’re in this industry, note that XENDEE highlights and summarizes four key stages where its software can be used to optimize time efficiency and cost efficiency: 1) Client Feasibility Study, 2) Custom Tailored Bankability Study, 3) Balance of System Engineering Analysis, 4) Implementation Management.

1. Client Feasibility Study

XENDEE’s immersive user experience and generative design optimization technology considers millions of possibilities. It autonomously creates the optimal Microgrid system, investment thesis, and control strategy that best meets your customer’s envisioned benefits and goals — in minutes.

Image credit: Xendee

2. Custom Tailored Bankability Study

Enrich feasibility studies with highly detailed modeling features that capture almost any imaginable scenario. Then let XENDEE’s unique bankability analysis capabilities generate custom-built solutions optimized to your customer’s exact objectives and needs with unmatched accuracy and speed.

Image credit: Xendee

3. Balance of System Engineering Analysis

Accurately determine Balance of System (BOS) costs with XENDEE’s integrated power system one-line diagram, time-series power flow, and transient stability analyses. Easily optimize the size of cables, transformers and other components required to ensure safe and reliable operation.

Image credit: Xendee

Finally, XENDEE’s custom-tailored project management information system delivers a centralized and straightforward cloud-based solution to instantly identify problems and determine project status. Deviations from the plan are highlighted and indicate effects on the overall project delivery timeline.

Image credit: Xendee

One of the greatest things we can do worldwide to facilitate the use of clean energy and reduce carbon emissions is to more quickly and efficiently roll out distributed energy microgrid solutions. I hope to see XENDEE’s platform get into the hands of many more developers, engineers, government officials, and financiers in order to help achieve that. I have not seen a comparably compelling platform in my years of covering this sector — with the caveat being that I also haven’t personally developed or financed a microgrid project, so can only provide this top-level view of this solution and the microgrid world as a whole.

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This article was supported by Xendee.

 
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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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