Dynamic Energy Networks forms strategic alliance with Schneider Electric and The Carlyle Group to deliver Energy-as-a-Service

November 6, 2017

Media contact:
Sarah Golden

DEN bolsters leadership team with
former Hitachi and RET Capital executives

 SAN FRANCISCO — As the energy sector increasingly shifts from one-way, static power grids to two-way, dynamic power infrastructure, Dynamic Energy Networks (DEN) today announced strategic alliances with established energy and industrial sector powerhouses Schneider Electric and The Carlyle Group. DEN also announced that it has rounded out its leadership ranks by acquiring an executive team from Hitachi and RET Capital with decades of experience in development, technology and innovative financial structures.

“We established a platform to own and operate microgrids and distributed energy resources (DER) to serve organizations and institutions – from campuses to hospitals and the military – that demand predictable pricing and efficient, reliable energy,” said DEN CEO Karen Morgan. “Working together with Schneider Electric and The Carlyle Group, we aim to transform the market to deliver holistic Energy-as-a-Service with innovative financial and technology solutions.”

Energy-as-a-Service – such as discrete energy infrastructure systems that can operate either in connection with or independent of the utility grid for a customer – could grow to a $221 billion global business by 2020, a Navigant Research report estimated.

With the rise of the Energy-as-a-Service market, DEN is well-positioned to become a trusted and reliable provider of energy to commercial and industrial operations, municipalities, healthcare facilities, institutions, campuses and the military.

DEN’s business model represents the next phase in the grid’s evolution: highly connected, smart microgrid and DER infrastructure with bespoke and flexible financial and alternative ownership structures. Customers benefit from long-term power contracts that provide cost-effective, resilient and secure supply of clean energy; investors gain access to a diversified set of dynamic energy infrastructure across different market sectors and geographies.

“We’ve long been leaders in helping companies meet ambitious energy goals,” said Mark Feasel, vice president of Schneider Electric’s electric utility segment and smart grid business in the U.S. “Through our partnership with DEN and Carlyle, we can deploy solutions that leverage both world-class technology and new business models to transform the edge of the grid and optimize the energy value chain.”

“The energy industry has experienced a tremendous growth in awareness and usage of microgrids in just the last year alone,” said Andrew Marino, a Carlyle Managing Director and Co-Head of Carlyle Global Infrastructure, the firm’s infrastructure investing team. “We’re thrilled to leverage the expertise of Dynamic Energy Networks and to partner with Schneider Electric to deliver microgrid solutions that enable Energy-as-a-Service.” Equity for future investments by this strategic alliance will come from sources including Carlyle Global Infrastructure Opportunity Fund, a Carlyle fund that makes infrastructure investments.

Schneider Electric is a world leader in microgrid technology and solutions that designed, built and maintains more than 300 advanced microgrids. The Carlyle Group is a global alternative asset manager. Together, the firms will deliver the flexible financing and technology that restructures the market by providing Energy-as-a-Service.

DEN’s entry into the microgrid and DER field is a natural evolution for the company’s leadership team, which has decades of experience investing in the clean energy sector. Morgan’s 25 years of experience in energy and industrial finance includes leading RET Capital, a $750 million enterprise that backed utility-scale solar and wind generation assets across North America.

Also, DEN has rounded out its leadership ranks by acquiring a top-notch executive team from Hitachi and RET Capital with decades of experience in development, technology, and innovative financial structures. The new team members include:

  • Steve Pullins, Vice President of Development, has 40 years of utility industry experience in operations, maintenance, engineering, microgrids and renewables, including serving as vice president for energy solutions at Hitachi America and leading the U.S. Modern Grid Strategy for the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
  • John Westerman, Vice President of Technical Solutions, brings 30 years of experience in emerging energy technologies to the table, most recently as a vice president for Hitachi America working on microgrids and other advanced technologies.
  • Scott Rosebrook, Vice President of Corporate Development & Finance, has more than 25 years of corporate finance experience at renewable energy companies and leading financial institutions. Most recently, he was Vice President, Renewable Energy Specialist at KeyBank and, prior to that, Vice President of Corporate Finance & Treasurer for RET Capital.

“This team has the experience needed to develop innovative solutions in a rapidly evolving energy market,” Steve Pullins said. “Our team’s track record proves the strength of our value to customers and investors alike. We look forward to forging partnerships as reliable as our microgrid and DER infrastructure.”

About Dynamic Energy Networks

Dynamic Energy Networks (DEN) owns and operates of microgrid and distributed energy resources, connecting customers with cost-effective, resilient and secure clean energy and investors with access to the burgeoning Energy-as-a-Service market. Its infrastructure is ideally suited to serve commercial and industrial (C&I) sector, as well as the municipality, healthcare, institutional campus and military sectors.

About Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries. With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in Power Management – Medium Voltage, Low Voltage and Secure Power, and in Automation Systems. We provide integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation and software. In our global Ecosystem, we collaborate with the largest Partner, Integrator and Developer Community on our Open Platform to deliver real-time control and operational efficiency. We believe that great people and partners make Schneider a great company and that our commitment to Innovation, Diversity and Sustainability ensures that Life Is On everywhere, for everyone and at every moment. www.schneider-electric.com

About The Carlyle Group

The Carlyle Group (NASDAQ: CG) is a global alternative asset manager with $174 billion of assets under management across 306 investment vehicles as of September 30, 2017. Carlyle’s purpose is to invest wisely and create value on behalf of its investors, many of whom are public pensions. Carlyle invests across four segments – Corporate Private Equity, Real Assets, Global Market Strategies and Investment Solutions – in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America. Carlyle has expertise in various industries, including: aerospace, defense & government services, consumer & retail, energy & power, financial services, healthcare, industrial, infrastructure, real estate, technology & business services, telecommunications & media and transportation. The Carlyle Group employs more than 1,550 people in 31 offices across six continents. www.carlyle.com

Microgrid Kept Power On Even as the California Wildfires Caused Outages

By Lisa Cohn

When the islanded microgrid at Stone Edge Farm near Sonoma, Calif., kept operating for 10 days in spite of the fires that caused outages nearby, the operators seized the opportunity to learn as much as possible from the surprises they encountered.

islanded microgrid

California National Guard photo, Oct. 12, 2017.

The first surprise, of course, were the fires that struck suddenly, stoked by high winds and dry conditions. While the fires didn’t burn the farm’s property, they came within about five miles.

“At 5 am I got a phone call from an employee who couldn’t get into work because everything was burning,” said Craig Wooster, general contractor for the microgrid project. “I reached for the light and there was no light at my place, which instantly told me we needed to get the microgrid into island mode.”

His son and an intern working at Stone Edge Farm put the microgrid in island mode to ensure the farm’s irrigation system continued operating in case the power at the farm went out. The microgrid powers pumps that run water from wells, explained Wooster.

The microgrid, which includes a mix of solar, eight different types of batteries, 10 different kinds of inverters, and a natural gas microturbine, operated even though the power went out and officials called for evacuations. In fact, after being evacuated, Wooster and his associates operated the islanded microgrid remotely—for the first time.

 Islanded microgrid faced tests in fire — and succeeded

Operating in island mode put to the test a “distributed optimizer” called Heila, created by the team and others specifically for the microgrid.

“When I say we operated the microgrid remotely, what we basically did was push an ‘on’ or ‘off’ button and the system is designed to operate itself autonomously, switching between different resources,” said Wooster.

It does this thanks in part to the Heila controller, provided by a startup company, Heila Technologies, that the microgrid team helped create. Wooster had helped form the startup by approaching major manufacturers such as Schneider Electric and asking them to help produce a local controller that could operate if individual components of the microgrid failed.

The microgrid itself is distributed across the 16-acre farm, with 16 buildings and seven utility service meters.

“When we go into island mode, we disconnect all seven service meters from the grid,” Wooster explained.

To manage this, the microgrid has numerous levels of control, including a central controller and, at the local level, Heila.

“Our system will still operate at the local level with Heila if we lose other levels of control,” he said.

A “distributed optimizer for microgrids,” Heila aims to simplify the design and operation of microgrids, according to the Heila website.

With Heila, every asset in a microgrid gets its own Heila IQ optimizer, which forms a distributed network that can be used by central controllers.

“Our system will still operate with Heila if we lose the other levels. The assets are all automonous. They will maintain their portion of the microgrid respective to what the microgrid needs,” Wooster explained.

The biggest problem with microgrids today…

“The biggest problem with microgrids today is they are all custom,” said Wooster. “Heila overcomes that and works with components at a local level. The central controller looks out and sees five Heilas.”

The lessons learned from the fire fit nicely with the mission of the microgrid team — made up of industry members, interns, the farm’s owners and staff who often partner with the Electric Power Research Institute and other organizations. That mission is to move microgrids forward, Wooster said.

One lesson from the experience was that the microgrid, intended to be a community resource after an earthquake, should also provide shelter during fires. However, to do that, the farm needs face masks and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to ensure people are breathing air that’s relatively free of pollution, Wooster said. The farm wasn’t prepared for that.

islanded microgrid

View of batteries at Stone Edge Farm

Protections to prevent battery fires

The team also learned that in case of major fires, it’s a good idea to provide protections to prevent fires from the batteries — as the team did.

For example, a Tesla Powerwall is located 25 feet from anything that would burn. Additional batteries in the microgrid include lithium ion phosphate batteries from  SimpliPhi Power that are “totally safe,” said Wooster.

“If we did have a battery explode, we could send energy everywhere else. That point of failure would not take us off line,” Wooster said.

By quickly putting the microgrid in island mode in response to the fires — a “knee-jerk reaction” — the team learned a lot of lessons it wouldn’t have learned otherwise. Top among them, Wooster said: “The microgrid did what it was supposed to do.”

For the long-term social good

To continue the learning process and expand the role of microgrids, the Stone Edge team applied for and received a $1.8 million grant from the California Energy Commission for the Sonoma Valley School District to install solar-plus-storage at a bus barn that also is a food warehouse. The idea is to create an emergency refuge at the site.

And the team is also applying for California Energy Commission grants to build two microgrids on school campuses so they can serve as emergency shelters.

This work makes Stone Edge Farm owner Mac McQuown happy, said Wooster. “We move microgrids forward and do it around the school district, and the long-term social and political good,” he said.

Originally published on Microgrid Knowledge