Sigenergy stacks up storage to unlock C&I applications

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May 19, 2024
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6 min read
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Attracting installers and distributors from across Europe, Chinese power electronics upstart Sigenergy has hosted an event where an innovative approach to commercial and industrial solar-plus-storage took center stage.

Unlocking C&I Energy Storage
Commercial and industrial (C&I) solar makes a lot of sense. It uses idle space, puts energy generation right at the source of sizeable demand, and can deliver the economic advantage of cheap, clean power to local industry. 

C&I solar also circumvents some of the sticking points holding back PV’s potential in many parts of the world. Installing solar where it will be consumed does away with the expensive and lengthy transmission infrastructure projects that are required for utility scale renewables. It offers a short-cut around the, at times, Byzantine approval processes required of ground mounted solar. And it can be integrated into agri-business, rather than raising the ire of the farming lobby over competition for land. 

But it‘s been a tricky nut for the smart energy industry to crack.

Credit: Sigenergy

C&I Potential
When revising upwards its “Global solar PV market outlook” report in December 2023, energy analysts Wood Mackenzie noted that electricity price shocks were driving energy procurement decisions among European households and industry.

“This [electricity price increase] has driven record installation volumes for residential and C&I solar PV installations this quarter in these markets,” said WoodMac. The uptick in demand resulted in the predominately oil and gas analysts to upgrade their forecast for European solar installations by 5% – although it was still a miserly forecast.

The new momentum behind rooftop PV of all sizes is a trend has not gone unnoticed by others. In its most recent market outlook, the “EU Market Outlook for Solar Power 2023-2027” report, SolarPower Europe noted that the European Union’s second largest market Spain had seen an acceleration of C&I solar uptake. 

“Quickly decreasing module prices backed demand in the nascent commercial and industrial (C&I) segment in the second half of 2023,” SolarPower Europe reported. It added that while right across the EU 2023 was an exceptionally strong year for rooftop solar adoption in all market segments, C&I was the standout. 

“Its [C&I’s] share of newly installed capacities grew to 33%, from 29% the year before.”

Credit: SolarPower Europe

Batteries for Business
Equally, there is a strong and building business case for C&I battery energy storage to be installed alongside PV.

By shaving the maximum electricity demand at a commercial property, batteries can dramatically reduce or do away with peak tariffs – which are commonplace in some markets and being applied by an increasing number of electricity retailers. Batteries can also make use of the PV power generated on site, rather than seeing it fed back into the grid for small returns – maximising self consumption as a household would. And it can facilitate the integration of fast EV charging on site, delivering a benefit to the staff and visitors to a business.

These advantages were on display during a C&I solar and energy storage site visit in Valencia, Spain, a part of the Sigenergy Day Europe 2024. The event was held last week and revolved around the demonstration of Sigenergy’s power electronics and energy storage offerings, and how they are targeted at unlocking C&I energy storage applications.

Solar panels and EV chargers among the grapevines.

Winery Case Study
The project that the approximately 150 attendees visited was a winery south of Valencia, in Spain’s Murcia region. It was a historic, family owned operation, that had first began installing solar in 2020 and had added innovative solar-plus-storage systems in April 2024

The PV systems at the winery used premium PV components familiar to solar industry participants – REC Solar modules and SMA inverters. But what was unique was the energy storage component, provided by Chinese upstart Sigenergy – which is based in Shanghai, China

Rather than a more conventional containerized battery system, or energy storage integrated into electrical cabinets, the system at the winery had installed more than 60 SigenStor battery units, which was introduced into the market primarily as a residential battery. The batteries were installed across three sites at the Spanish winery, with a total capacity of 3 MWh. 

Sigenergy EV charging stations were installed as a part of the solar-plus-storage system, for use by winery visitors and staff. The winery project developer integrated three 25kW EVDC fast charging stations. The chargers integrate into the SigenStor platform and can deliver 130 kilometers of range in one hour of charging.

For independent solar and energy storage consultant Thomas Hillig, who hosted the Sigenergy Day conference, such installations are likely to become more commonplace. 

“Flying into Valencia you do see all the empty roofs, and this is about to change because companies will see there are more and more business models that can be used by C&I players, not only in Spain,” said Hillig.

And Sigenergy wants to be a part of that change. 

Stackable Product
The young company is rolling out its inverters, batteries, EV chargers, gateway, and cloud management products to homes and business – and is setting itself apart by deploying highly modular, flexible systems. 

At the core of the Sigenergy offering is the SigenStor battery energy system. Available either 5 kWh or 8 kWh, the battery system can be installed in parallel – up to 20 systems, for a capacity of 960 kWh. The company, which will celebrate only its second birthday this month, says the SigenStor is ideal for projects between 50 kWh and 2 MWh in size. 

Some of the key advantages to Sigenergy approach is that it makes array design easier, installation and commissioning faster, and the whole system more robust in the event of the failure of a single battery unit. Rather than a single, large battery system, that requires specialized design, cabling, and battery foundations, SigenStor units can be stacked with relative ease. 

Sigenergy says that one Energy Controller (read: hybrid inverter) and three battery units can be installed by a two-person team in 15 minutes. With “fully networked communication,” the company says that system debugging and commissioning only takes a further 10 minutes.

Left: Sigenergy's Roy Zhang kicking off the day at the morning conference. Right: The author surveying the winery's multitude of solar panels.

From Residential to C&I
At the Spanish winery installation, with 63 SigenStor batteries across three sites, there was only one QR code for the installation team to scan for the commissioning process, said Roy Zhang, Sigenergy’s head of global sales and solution management. 

“With the same product, now everyone can do the C&I business,” said Zhang, speaking at the Sigenergy Day conference. “You don’t need to train staff on a new product or for them to learn a new commissioning process, everything is the same. And the same inventory can be used for a different project – that’s fine!”

And this is perhaps the most exciting aspect of what Sigenergy is bringing to the market. C&I solar and energy storage applications have abundant promise, but their widespread adoption has been slow. For residential solar installers, larger systems may appear too complicated, too difficult, and the market segment remain closed to them. 

Experienced residential installers, with their strong connection to local communities, could prove crucial in getting C&I solar and batteries adopted by businesses of all shapes and sizes.

And it may well be the key to unlocking the vast potential of C&I. 

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