SolarPlus Optimizer: Integrated Control of Solar, Batteries, and Flexible Loads for Small Commercial Buildings
Building-level microgrids may be a key strategy to unlock the combined potential of flexible loads, renewable generation, and energy storage. However, few software options exist for integrated control of building loads and other distributed energy resources at this scale. The commercial software solutions on the market can force customers to adopt one particular ecosystem of products, thus limiting consumer choice. The SolarPlus Optimizer (SPO) is an open-source building-level microgrid control platform that uses Model Predictive Control to optimize both building loads and behind-the-meter energy storage to reduce energy bills and increase demand flexibility. This paper evaluates the capabilities of SPO in a small commercial building in Northern California under multiple electricity tariffs and demand response scenarios. Comparing SPO operation with an emulated battery and baseline operation employing a commercial optimization service, SPO reduced electricity bills by an estimated 7.3% in summer, 3.2% in spring, and 3.7% in winter. In a “load shape” scenario meant to counter the “duck curve”, SPO achieved 71% fewer violations from the load signal than the baseline control method. During a three hour long load shed event, SPO reduced cooling and refrigeration load by 38%. This research shows significant potential to provide load flexibility for building-level microgrids for this type of control systems. Finally, the paper discusses the future direction of research on open-source control systems.