SunPower rolls out smart energy management deal for commercial and industrial solar

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SunPower has made a deal to allow its commercial and industrial users the benefit of access to energy intelligence software made by EnerNOC, a US developer of cloud-based energy management and demand reduction solutions.  

The two companies signed a strategic agreement, announced yesterday, which will mean SunPower customers can assess and optimise the value of their solar output and make savings in their energy usage. This will include sending out the software to existing commercial and industrial customers of the California-headquartered solar firm. In return, EnerNOC will market SunPower’s solar products to its business customers, under the terms of the three-year deal.

EnerNOC’s chairman and CEO, Tim Healy, said the declining cost of solar is making it more and more attractive to install, which when coupled with a growing desire on the part of businesses to manage energy demand and use more closely made the agreement a logical fit.

“More and more enterprises want to take control of their energy costs and, as a result, the demand for solar has dramatically increased,” Healy said.

“Solar solutions require robust analytics and verification capabilities to maximise their value, which is why we're excited to partner with SunPower in North America to offer an integrated solution to enterprise customers.”

The move shines a light on the growing trend for increased use of solar generation data in energy management and on the corresponding growth of partnerships between solar companies and their counterparts in energy management. Omar Saadeh, senior grid analyst with GTM Research, told PV Tech that this seems a particular area of interest for SunPower.

Saadeh recently authored a report for GTM on “Energy in the Connected Home 2015,” which pinpoints a number of initiatives taken by solar companies in the US to increase their links with home energy management, including storage and – crucially – the collection and use of data. Although the report is obviously focussed on the residential space, some of the moves highlighted by it have implications for non-residential solar as well.

“Not only did [SunPower] invest about US$20 million in Tendril to really co-develop and license their enterprise-level software, but today they announced a partnership with EnerNOC to do the same thing for the C&I (commercial and industrial) space,” Saadeh said.

“You’re seeing SunPower really take this aggressive move into energy management from enterprise level to the residential but also the commercial and industrial space. This definitely seems to be an area of interest for them.”

While others in the US including Vivint Solar, SolarCity and SunEdison are doing “interesting work” in linking solar to energy management, Saadeh said, SunPower’s latest deal with EnerNOC and similar deals struck by microinverter maker Enphase show how crucial a piece of that puzzle data can be.

“What seems to be some high-level trend is that some of these players are partnering with home energy management companies,” Saadeh said.

“Enphase has two very interesting known partnerships, one with Nexia Home Intelligence and one with France’s Mylight Systems. They incorporate some of the generation data from the homeowner’s roof into the home energy management system to give it a very interesting, new, unique capability.

“A lot of other players in the home don’t have that unique perspective just because they don’t have the data coming off the solar panel or the inverter.”

In a recent interview for PV Tech's sister site PV Tech Storage, Enphase co-founder Raghu Belur spoke of his belief that leveraging gathered data will form a crucial part of the company's business model in the future.

The deal between SunPower and EnerNOC has more immediate economic benefit to commercial customers than many of the residential offerings to pair solar with energy management, most of which are still at pilot deployment stage. In the US, demand charges comprise a large portion of businesses’ energy bills, something that does not apply as readily to households, as SunPower president and CEO Tom Werner said in a statement yesterday.

“SunPower is focused on offering Smart Energy solar solutions to allow our customers to intelligently manage energy supply and demand, and achieve their energy goals,” Werner said.

“With EnerNOC's energy intelligence software, our customers will get energy and demand management analytics integrated with real-time SunPower solar production and performance. This will allow them to better budget and manage their energy bills, including shifting usage to mitigate demand charges, which may comprise 30% or more of a monthly energy bill.”

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