The clatter of construction has died down, and strong steel energy storage containers stand proud next to the solar array. All of the pieces are in place, but the site still stands dormant. The project was researched, engineered, and installed – now what?
Commissioning an energy storage system is a multi-step process that readies the facility for operation. The process requires that key component manufacturers, system integrators, and project developers work together to run the system through a series of extensive tests that ensure the system is safe and reliable.
Stories from Commissioning
While it sounds like a simple process to run through a checklist to complete commissioning, the Terrasun commissioning team has experienced many surprises in the field.
To commission the Soma facility in Japan, members of the Terrasun team traveled to the site and worked with a team from IHI Corporation. The extremely remote site was challenging to get to, especially as the group traveling did not speak the language and couldn’t even read the signs. Once they made it to the facility, they quickly settled into the routine and rhythm of the site. Despite language barriers, everyone started the day together practicing calisthenics before getting to work! At the end of every day, the Terrasun team tried new foods together from delicious train station gyoza to red bean ice cream and a particularly memorable buttered clam ramen.
Other commissioning incidents had less adventurous flair, like a huge snowstorm sending everyone running to buy tents for cover in Western Massachusetts or a 24-hour turnaround right before ESACon.
Regardless of the challenges, surprises, and successes, the Terrasun team works tirelessly throughout commissioning to make sure that systems run efficiently and – most importantly – safely.
Thorough testing for safety and efficiency
When all the equipment is installed, the battery and inverter vendors check their equipment, and we make sure the components are properly installed and connected, and that our controls software is communicating properly with the system.
Then we start a series of tests making sure the system is safe to use. We usually start by checking the alarm systems within the container. We check to make sure that safety measures are in place to alert system operators if doors open, an HVAC goes offline, smoke is detected or even if the fire system we to discharge due to a fire. We also work with battery suppliers and inverter/converter vendors to make sure that any alarms caused by battery issues are relayed to the system operators properly, and that they appear correctly in the user interface.
Once we feel confident that the system is properly installed and safe to use, we make sure it’s working as planned. Capacity testing can be very weather-dependent if the system is solar + storage. On a cloudy day, we might not be able to test the PV system and charge the energy storage system to the extent we want to. Testing discharge is tricky as well, and careful planning and flexibility are important. Many utilities have an export limit that restricts energy shared to the grid, meaning that discharges can only be done at night or in the early morning when no PV is being produced. During one memorable commissioning, the whole team collaborated and synchronized turning panels on and off to simulate cloud coverage. We often go through a few charge and discharge cycles before we’re satisfied that we’ve completed all of our capacity testing – but once we do, we’re ready to get started!
Ready to go
When all of our testing is complete and the system is safe and functioning smoothly, it’s time to hand off the project to the site operators. We compile a comprehensive commissioning report and call our customer to share everything we learned in the course of our testing.
We hope the system will run smoothly for many years, but we don’t stop working once we’ve handed over the project; we continue working with site owners and operators throughout the full life of the system, assisting with augmentation, updates, additional safety measures, and many other services we provide to keep systems running smoothly.