“We are at the leapfrog stage in renewable energy. This is a paradigm shift. This is the answer, the holy grail,” says Christopher LaForge, co-instructor of two new courses from Heatspring, Utility Scale Commercial & Industrial Storage 101 and Utility Scale Commercial & Industrial Storage 201.

For more than 30 years, advocates like LaForge have tried to bring wind and solar to the electrical grid, creating a renewable grid. Now that goal is within reach, says LaForge, CEO of Great Northern Solar.

Solar and Wind Now the Least Expensive New Energy Resources

The U.S. is now scaling rapidly into storage, and costs will continue to decrease, he says. It no longer makes sense for utilities to deploy non-renewable generation because solar and wind are the least expensive new energy resources. That makes him happy.

 “Now I’m in a position to train utilities, industries and commercial people how to create a carbon-free, nuclear free grid. It’s so much fun,” he says.

Courses Help Utilities and Industries Evaluate Storage Systems

His two new courses do just that. The first course–which the instructors have only taught once online–provides a detailed analysis of commercial and industrial utility grade storage systems and provides utilities with the information they need to evaluate proposals for these systems. The second course, which is brand new, equips students with an overview of the available technologies and focuses on planning commercial, industrial and utility applications. Each course provides 35 hours of credit required by NABCEP for solar certifications.

 People working with and within utilities will be the primary students in the 101 and 201 classes. Administrators and engineers in utilities should take these courses, along with companies that deploy storage,” he says. The courses are sequential, but students need only do a week of the 101 level first if they want to take the 201 level class at the same time.

The Important Effect of FERC Order 2222

One of the recent events that has spurred energy storage activity at all levels–and prompted a need for these courses– is FERC Order 2222. It sets the stage for aggregated distributed energy resources, including storage, to compete with traditional power plants and other grid resources in wholesale markets.

“With FERC Order 2222, we will see a revolution in how utilities are allowed to take advantage of customers’ clean energy and storage. When people understand what’s involved, it will blow open the doors on all levels for storage,” he says.

Homeowners Make Money with Renewables and Storage

For example, in August 2020, during a heat wave in California, OhmConnect–the recipient of a $4 million grant from the California Energy Commission–helped utilities meet demand from the strained grid by controlling the smart devices, storage, solar and appliances of 150,000 residential customers. This innovative effort provided  1 GWh for the grid, which is the equivalent of taking 600,000 homes off the grid. It paid $1 million to its homeowner customers. 

Now, as a result of FERC Order 2222, more homeowners, businesses, utilities and third party aggregators can reap income.

“A utility that ends up with a lot of storage will use it to gain revenues by working with regional transmission authorities (RTO). The RTOs want storage for frequency regulation. Utilities that invest smartly will be able to get revenues from that,” says LaForge.

The Guy Cheering for Solar 

Thirty years ago, when LaForge entered the industry, he had high hopes for solar, hopes that are now being realized, especially due to the rise of energy storage and markets that allow utility customers to provide power and services to the grid.

“Thirty years ago, I was the guy with the pompoms and pleated skirt cheering solar,” says LaForge. “To have an avocation in solar that allows me to make a living has been a joy. Now those of us worried about future generations can get to work to make these solutions happen quickly.”

Photo credit: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News