Energy storage has become an essential part of today’s electrical grid. Since renewable energy production does not peak at the same time as energy demand, the storage of some of that excess energy for later use becomes an indispensable part of the clean energy grid of tomorrow, one that is growing closer to reality with every passing day. Given this necessity, the creation of a vast web of energy storage facilities has become a priority, with more coming online year over year. Each of these storage systems is unique, with its own configuration and set of challenges to manage. In the past, each of these facilities required a management system to be created specifically for that facility, a process that consumed both time and capital. An energy management system was needed that could be modified in many different storage contexts. FlexGen’s HybridOS energy management software was created in response to that need. From that starting point, the FlexGen team continuously innovates to improve the platform’s utility and performance, as well as to adapt to changing needs and new challenges that operators of energy storage face. Energy storage systems have become increasingly important in the modern world, as they are able to store and manage energy in a variety of ways. These systems can be used to store energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar, as well as from traditional sources.
An Energy Management System (EMS) is a software and digital control platform that enables the monitoring and control of a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS). Traditionally, a bespoke EMS was created for each BESS, based upon its specific configuration and the type of hardware that was being used. As a result of the narrowly focused system that was created, that initial configuration and hardware were locked in. One of the first priorities (and challenges) that the FlexGen team faced in creating HybridOS was the need for an EMS that was not dependent upon any brand or manufacturer of hardware. HybridOS was designed to be hardware agnostic, meaning that it can be used with whichever type of battery system the operators of the facility prefer without having to be dependent on that manufacturer indefinitely.
A truly flexible EMS needs to be able to handle different configurations as well. One of the primary functions of energy storage at the grid level is the storage of the excess power load produced during peak renewable energy production times (in the afternoon for solar power production) and preserving it for when the energy demand is the highest (usually in the evening). Some systems are used purely for that purpose, known as load shifting. Other systems are a network of storage facilities – sometimes separated geographically, sometimes utilizing several types of storage – that need to be coordinated with each other to serve their function. Still others may be part of a microgrid (an enclosed electrical system) that has its own unique challenges in management. And some energy storage systems are used for a wider range of purposes; they may offer different grid ancillary services. In order to be truly hardware agnostic and flexible, HybridOS was designed to be adaptable to all these use cases. FlexGen’s approach and implementation too energy efficiency and energy consumption will have mass benefits and save costs for companies and organizations.
The Innovation Lab
To facilitate the process of adapting HybridOS to various energy storage systems, FlexGen created a virtual and physical environment that can be adjusted to mimic the configuration of a client’s facility, called the Innovation Lab. The Lab allows the FlexGen team to anticipate the needs of a BESS, test the EMS, and troubleshoot it before the commissioning process even begins.
As a result, HybridOS has made great strides in reducing the time it takes to get a new site up and operating. According to ERCOT (Texas’s independent service operator), the average commissioning time among the facilities they work with is 60 days; FlexGen’s average commissioning period is 14 days. That is potentially an extra month and a half of operating time, allowing the investment made in that facility to see a return that much faster.
Similarly, the Innovation Lab’s ability to test how HybridOS will work in a particular environment allows for the shortening of upgrade times. The team can see how the newest version of the software will work in a facility before putting it into effect. As a result, outage times required for an upgrade can be cut down dramatically. For example, a 10-megawatt system can be upgraded in less than a day. The FlexGen team also helps the client to choose the optimal window to take that outage time based upon its individual usage patterns and forecasting. Increasing productivity, creating opportunities and technology for business savings.
Making Complexity Understandable
The purpose of any Energy Management System (EMS) is to make these complex systems decipherable and manageable. But many EMSs are opaque where they should be clear, with difficult to understand presentations of data and system health. Some require functionality to be programmed by people specially trained to do so.
A key innovation in the continuing development of HybridOS is the advanced user interface (UI). The UI provides a comprehensive visualization of the power system, allowing users to monitor system performance, energy usage, and the health of the batteries themselves in real time. An approachable UI allows personnel without a programming background to control the operations of the system. Important data points are easily digestible, using understandable visualizations like charts and graphs. Our objectives are to provide the information, applications and the processes that meet the requirements managers need, as well as, providing the resources and solution.
Through advanced data analytics, HybridOS offers valuable insights, empowering users to make informed decisions regarding system optimization, maintenance, and performance enhancements. Clients report that the comprehensive analytics capabilities of HybridOS have become more valuable than looking at data through their SCADA systems.
An important part of the story of HybridOS’s evolution is its growing presence throughout the country. HybridOS can now be found in most markets, with an especially strong connection to ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas). HybridOS is adaptable to any Independent Service Operator (ISO), through the battery plant’s scheduling entity. But in ERCOT, HybridOS is able to interface directly with the ISO’s system model, allowing for the incorporation of stacked grid ancillary services to expand the revenue streams available to an energy storage facility. This capacity has also been developed for CAISO (California’s ISO), and HybridOS’s continued evolution will be to expand that capacity into other ISOs as well.
Supporting Stacked Ancillaries
Grid ancillary services are the additional functions required for the stability and reliability of the grid beyond the production, transmission, and storage of power. HybridOS allows facilities to coordinate with their ISO providing a range of ancillary services, allowing site operators to maximize the return on their investment. The ancillary services that an energy storage site can provide depends on the capabilities of the facility and the structure of the local energy market, including:
Frequency regulation – Energy storage systems can quickly inject or absorb power to help regulate grid frequency. HybridOS allows them to respond within milliseconds to frequency deviations, providing fast and accurate regulation support.
Voltage control – Energy storage systems can help regulate voltage levels by injecting or absorbing reactive power. By dynamically adjusting their output, HybridOS enables them to stabilize voltage and support voltage control functions.
Black start capability – Some facilities can help the grid restart in case of a blackout.
Which ancillary services a facility can provide will vary depending on the hardware and configuration involved and the local ISO’s policies. But these ancillary services are essential to the function and resiliency of the grid, and they are often compensated accordingly. The current ancillary services market is estimated at $8 billion and is expected to be worth more than twice that by 2031.1
Innovation yields results. HybridOS has now matured to a point that it has demonstrated performance far above industry standards in markets across the U.S. The facilities with the highest revenue per megawatt in the country are run on HybridOS. The software can respond 25,000 times faster than even the strictest industry standards require. HybridOS also proved itself during one of the harshest tests of the industry yet, when it passed through the Texas freeze in 2021 with a 99.7% availability rate. HybridOS actions impact energy use, its tools and operation reach beyond the company sector and improve everyone’s lives as seen in the news.
The proliferation of renewable energy and the energy storage facilities that support it make for an increasingly complex electrical system. That trend is only going to accelerate as the clean energy transition progresses. Continual innovation will be needed to deal with the challenges that are coming. An adaptable and updateable system that continues to evolve with the times allows energy storage operators to future-proof their investment.
Some of the coming innovations can be anticipated. As mentioned, the continued expansion into more markets and interfacing capability with more ISOs are a foreseeable evolution in HybridOS. The recent giant leap forward in UI will continue to evolve and improve the user experience. A digital twin capacity that will provide even greater monitoring, diagnostics, and troubleshooting capabilities is also in development.
Some of the changes ahead cannot be anticipated. The world has never experienced the type of energy transition it is currently undergoing. The need for battery energy storage systems is a certainty if the world is to minimize the effects of climate change, but the world – and the market – will change around those facilities in unforeseeable ways. HybridOS has evolved to meet the needs of its clients and will continue to do so. Ongoing innovation will allow FlexGen and HybridOS to support energy generation as it responds to the challenges ahead.