GivEnergy Commercial

GivEnergy Commercial – a Q&A with Darren Brown

We’ve started a new series of Instagram Live events to connect to you — our audience — in real-time. We want to create more and more opportunities to chat to you and answer your queries.

This time, we wanted to focus on the commercial side of GivEnergy. So, Darren Brown, Director of GivEnergy Commercial, took to the smartphone stage in our latest live Q&A session.

Here’s the transcript of how that session unfolded.


“I’m Darren, I’m the Commercial Director heading up GivEnergy Commercial. These are our larger battery storage solutions – used for farms, office buildings, factories, hospitals, hotels, leisure centres, and anything in between.

The GivEnergy Commercial team has been around since October last year. We’re fast-growing the team to deliver all these larger battery solutions. At the moment, we have a small team of around 8 people, and we have around 30 projects that are up and running already.

It’s a little-known fact that commercial solutions have always been available from GivEnergy. But, as we’ve grown our domestic business, we’ve primarily focused on the domestic support and the domestic products. So, that’s why you may or may not have heard of GivEnergy Commercial in the past. But here we are, and we’re growing quite rapidly.

Anyway: we get a number of questions about our commercial battery storage systems, so we thought it would be useful to put together a live FAQ to answer some of those queries for you.”


Q: What are the key components of a commercial battery storage system?

You have:

An inverter.

In the commercial world, we call this a PCS (power conversion system). This is what converts the battery’s DC power into AC that can be used on the site. The PCS comes in a range of sizes, starting  at 30 kW and going all the way up to a 500 kW unit. That can also be scaled larger if required.

So for example, a large current project is a 4.8 megawatt hour (MWh) solution with 4 megawatts of power – that’s 8 of the 500kW PCS’s in that system.

Once you’ve got your PCS, then there’s also the battery racks.

(If you take a look at our datasheets you’ll be able to see how they look.)

Ther are two different types of batteries for commercial installations. There’s a smaller SME solution, and that is 64kWh banks of batteries. You can stack up to 4 of them together to give you 256 kWh total.

The larger racks are 200kWh each, and we sell them in 600 kWh segments. This is scalable to an unlimited size. As I say, the largest project we’ve got installed is 4.8 megawatt hours — but there’s no reason we can’t go larger than that or anywhere in between.

Additionally there a few items that are required to make the system all work together. So, there’s a:

DC combiner cabinet – if you have multiple battery racks, you need a combiner cabinet to link all the battery racks together and from there it goes to the PCS.

You’ve then got some metering – this operates in a similar way to our domestic solutions.

You have CT clamps, wrapping around the supply cables and any generation onsite.

That then reports back to the EMS or the Energy Management System. The EMS is the brains of the operation. It decides when the batteries should charge and discharge according to however it’s set – there’s a couple more questions on that in a minute.


Q: What factors should a business consider when choosing a commercial battery storage system?

There are a couple of points to do with size. We need to understand the physical space available. So, that could be indoors, or it could be outdoors in one of the containerised solutions.

Then we need to consider the requirements of the battery. What do you desire the battery to achieve? That could be self-consumption from renewable energy. (I.e., storing excess solar generation and dispatching that later on to keep your grid usage as neutral as possible.)  It could be to load shift. (Charging the battery using a split rate tariff with a lower rate electric charge in the evening, and then discharging when it’s more expensive.) Some of you might know the Octopus tariffs or Economy 7, for example.

Then, we also need to consider how the system will integrate into the building or the site. Think about:

  • Electrically and physically where it can go
  • How you’re going to get power to this battery system
  • How you’re going to control the system

We will always support you in understanding all this so if there’s ever any questions, you’re more than welcome to ask. If you’ve got a solution that you’re thinking about, or if any of these questions trigger an idea for a project, please just give GivEnergy Commercial a shout at commercial@givenergy.co.uk.


Q: What types of businesses can benefit from commercial battery storage?

That can be any business or organisation, in any industry. So, as I said at the very start: farms, office blocks, factories, hospitals, council buildings, hotels, leisure centres, fire stations, large domestic residences even – anything!

Anywhere a battery would add value, our solutions are scalable and can fit in.


Q: How much energy can you store?

That will vary – there’s no real limit. You can store as much energy as you require and the systems are scalable. So, that’s a very flexible answer depending on the size of the battery we’re talking about.


Q: How long will a battery last?

There are two answers to that.

The actual battery capacity will define how long the battery will last each day.

With regards to how many years the battery will last for, the warranty on the commercial battery is for 10 years, with at least 70% battery capacity after that period. It’s worth noting, though, that all of the products across the GivEnergy range are designed and manufactured for a 20 year lifespan.


Q: How much does a commercial battery storage solution cost?

That is a difficult question to answer based on how many different sizes a system could be. To give you a ballpark idea, the smallest system starts at around £35,000.


Q: Is the installation complicated and how long will it take?

It’s not a very difficult installation for the GivEnergy components.

Of course, on a broader scale, there’s the installation of the electric cable, the electric supply and the communication cables that need to go in, and that will vary depending on the location of your electrics within your site. So, in terms of that piece, you would need to speak to an installation electrician. They’ll come and take a look and see what routes are available.

In terms of the actual GivEnergy components, there’s the PCS which is normally just one unit. (Unless you’ve got a larger system and then there would be multiple units put together.)

The battery racks are easily moved around on a pallet truck. Then, the battery packs themselves all slide into that racking. They’re all palletised when delivered — so, you can move them around on a normal pallet truck or forklift truck, get them to where the battery installation is happening, and just unbox them straight in front of the racking and slide them straight in.

We generally say that we can get up to 600kWh done in a day in terms of the GivEnergy components. For between 600 – 2.4 megawatt hours, we can get done in roughly 2 days. Then, bigger than that will be a much larger project and that would be a discussion that we would have to calculate.

For the smaller SME systems, there’s no reason (for the GivEnergy components) that the installation can’t be completed within 1 day by 2 people.


Q: Will the commercial battery storage be able to provide UPS?

Yes, absolutely. The systems can be wired up in a number of different ways to provide backup power to site.

If you’re familiar with the domestic systems, they can be wired up in the same way. That is, you put the grid in, and you can take some essential circuits off an EPS output. Or, we can actually do whole house backup. How that will work and how that will be achieved will very much depend on the requirements of the site, the current electrical configuration of the site, and the client requirements.

So: yes is the answer, but there are a number of avenues you can go down to achieve that.


Q: Can the commercial storage be used with PV or wind?

Absolutely. We can work with any form of generation no problem at all. All of the commercial solutions currently are AC coupled type. So, they can work with solar PV, wind, hydro, and potentially even generators or gas-powered CHP plants.

We just meter the generation and meter the incoming grid supply. Plus, we can actually work as an off-grid solution. There are a few sites out there that are already working entirely off-grid. (That’s the battery, the generation plant and a diesel or gas-powered generator.)

So, commercial storage can work on or off grid with any generation source.


Q: What safety measures are in place?

That’s quite a broad question. I think that here, there are a few really useful things to understand about our products.

As with all of the GivEnergy battery components, our commercial batteries are all lithium iron phosphate chemistry. So, they don’t contain any cobalt. In turn, that means they’re much safer as they don’t have the thermal runaway risk of cobalt-based batteries. Simply put, the underlying chemistry of the battery is much safer than some others that are out on the market at the minute.  

Above and beyond that, we monitor every single cell.

So, we keep an eye on the cell voltage of every single battery cell within each pack. That varies between 12-24 cells per pack depending on which solution we’re talking about.

All of that cell data is reported to the system onsite and also up to our online monitoring portal.

The reported voltage information is used to ensure that we’re operating within the safe tolerances of the cell. If anything starts getting a little too high or a little too low, the battery management system built into each battery pack will manage that battery cell voltage to ensure it doesn’t go outside the preset tolerances.

Above and beyond that, there’s another control box – a high voltage box.

So, within each battery rack, you have a high voltage box. That again has got a battery management system there keeping an eye on the voltages and the temperatures. That can isolate that battery rack if anything does go out of the tolerances.

The next step is a DC cabinet.

This too has a battery management system in there – also with a screen on the front. So, you can see exactly what is happening with all the individual battery packs. Again, that is monitoring the voltages and temperatures of everything and can isolate battery packs if required.

Finally, you then have the EMS (the energy management system).

This is talking to the DC cabinet and adding another level of monitoring and another level of safety.

So, there are lots and lots of steps in place to ensure the battery is operating within its allowable tolerances. And so long as it’s in its allowable tolerances, it will be absolutely fine.

In some scenarios, insurance companies or building owners may ask for fire suppression if we build a containerised solution. We can include that fire suppression within the container as part of the package, or it could be retrofitted afterwards. The fire suppression system is a gaseous system – basically removing the oxygen from the air. (Which means the fire can’t continue.)

So, there are lots of steps in place within the solutions themselves, and then the fire suppression is the final solution.


Q: Do the commercial batteries require maintenance?

No – not really. They are all monitored as discussed. So, they all have the online monitoring, and they all report up to the portal. The end user, the installer, and GivEnergy alike can see all of that information.

Here at GivEnergy, we’ll generally know if there are any concerns even before the end user does, and can react to them accordingly.

The real maintenance piece is just making sure that:

  • The ventilation is clear
  • There’s nothing stored around the batteries that shouldn’t be

Then we can offer a maintenance service if required. So, we can put together a maintenance plan along with a schedule of all the items that we’ll come and check. We can do that on a 6-monthly, annually, or bi-annually basis depending on your requirements.


Q: Where are GivEnergy commercial battery storage systems manufactured?

They’re currently manufactured in Shenzhen in China. We have 3 GivEnergy production sites over there. However, all of the support, the sales, the service, the software, the data hosting, the warehousing and so on is all managed from Stoke on Trent in the UK —  where we’re headquartered.

This model of cost-effective manufacturing in China (using our own factories), coupled with our UK-base powering all our software and services etc., is what allows us to move so quickly and be so competitive.

With our commercial systems, we convert all BESS containers in Stoke on Trent. So we get an empty container, insulate it, clad it, put some lighting in, and finally fit the battery system.

If you were to order a commercial storage solution, you’re more than welcome to come and have a look at your project as it develops.

At our head office we’ve also recently switched on a commercial system on our building. So, we have a live system connected to our site. If you do have an interest in GivEnergy Commercial and our solutions, you’d be welcome to message us and come and take a look.


Q: Do the batteries need to go in a container?

No – not at all. The main thing for the batteries is that they need to be kept dry. The actual individual components are IP21 or above. (Depending on which component we’re talking about.) The overall system though does need to be protected from the elements.

So, it would need to go either inside, or in a container. There is no problem at all in the system going in a warehouse, a plant room, or a service cupboard. The only key requirement here is that we need to make sure the temperature is kept within the allowable tolerances and the access should be restricted.

Because these batteries operate at a high voltage, they can be quite dangerous for anyone who’s not trained and suitably qualified to work with them. So, they should be kept behind a locked door or cases.


Q: What happens if I’ve got a battery and my company changes addresses?

Along with the domestic solutions, so long as you communicate this with us first, we would be happy for you to move your GivEnergy system. We would want to come and recommission the system once you’ve got it in its new place, and you might want us to help decommission the system as well.

The key thing is letting us know. So, if you think a move is going to happen, get in touch and we’ll have that discussion with you.


Q: Does GivEnergy come and help with the install of the system?

Yes we do. For the larger systems, we include commissioning.

Your installer – whoever that is – will come and fit the system for you. But GivEnergy Commercial will attend and make the final DC connections, programme the EMS, make sure everything is reading and operating correctly, and then we can also offer a demonstration to the end user as well.

That service is included with all of the larger systems and the current SME solution as well.


Q: Are the commercial solutions IP rated?

We’ve touched on this one a little earlier. So, the individual components are IP rated for indoor use only. If we have a containerised solution, that is of course totally IP rated. So, that can be outside and that will be delivered fit-for-purpose.

The containerised solutions are really like a turnkey solution. So:

  • They need a base installed for them to land onto
  • They’ll be delivered in a lorry and lifted onto that base
  • The AC cable would then need to be installed
  • All the internal wiring is completed and tested at Stoke on Trent
  • The battery packs have to come separately (because of shipping regulations in the UK)
  • The batteries will come on a palletised delivery separately
  • They then need unpackaging and sliding into the battery rack
  • Guidance will be given with a drawing as to which battery goes where
  • Finally, part of the commissioning process is we’ll come and make those final DC and cable connections in the container

Q: Would the batteries be okay in a small room? Does it need ventilation?

Yes, it will almost certainly need ventilation. The batteries and the inverters do generate heat, and that will vary based on the size of the system and also what rate of power it’s currently running at. We can help you with the ventilation decision. If you’ve got a project that you’d like to enquire about, give us a shout and we will help you understand what ventilation is required.

The containerised solutions will come with air conditioning or HVAC built-in. They provide both heating and cooling, and will be suitably sized for each particular solution.

If your system is going in a room, you will almost certainly need some ventilation. We normally suggest getting it in a room that’s got an outside wall – that will also us to vent the hot air out of the back of the inverter.


Q: How heavy is the container when it’s loaded with batteries?

That will vary. We offer 10, 20, and 40 foot containers, and can also do bespoke options in between those sizes if required. Each of those containers can have a different setup to cover different power capacities. So, weight is ultimately dependent on your setup, but we can still give you a ballpark idea to make a calculation.

To use a recent example, we’ve done two 30 foot containers in the last couple of weeks. One is weighing in at 8 tonnes, and the other is weighing in at 12 tonnes. That’s without the battery packs in.

So yes, they are quite heavy and they do need to go on a nice solid pad. That would either be a full concrete pad the size of the container, or it might be some podiums made of slabs in each corner – that will depend on the size of the container.

But, they will be somewhere between 5 and about 15 tonnes without the batteries. Then, each 200kWh is about 2 tonnes on top of that. So, that should give you the numbers to allow you to calculate an overall weight.


Q: If I buy a smaller battery, can I add capacity at a later date?

Maybe – that does come with some caveats. First, you’d need to make sure that the batteries haven’t degraded too much. So, if you look to scale-up in the first year or so, that would normally be fine, and we would have this conversation at point of sale.

If, initially, you’d like to test the battery to see if it all works as they expected, then need a bit more capacity in 3 or 4 months, that would be no issue at all.

One more point to note is that we do continually develop our products as we move forwards. So, one of the limitations would be ensuring that we have the older cell technology available if we’ve developed a new solution.


Q: Is there aftersales support with the system?

Yes, absolutely. The team here at Stoke provide that. We’re all knowledgeable electricians or electrical engineers so there’s a good range of skills within the business.

GivEnergy Commercial has a separate support department to the domestic solutions. So, the domestic team won’t necessarily be able to advise on commercial products but there is a team here able to offer over-the-phone, email, or on-site support as required.

Plus, we do already have two engineers that can travel to site if needs be.


Q: How is the system monitored?

The GivEnergy commercial systems are monitored in the same way as the domestic — you can see it online on the portal. It’s the same portal, but obviously it introduces some new features. So, the visuals look a little different, but if you’re used to the domestic portal then it will feel very similar.

It can all be controlled from the portal as standard. But, what the commercial systems offer on top of that, is a screen on the PCS showing exactly what the PCS is currently doing. (Its current charge or discharge level.)

If you have a multiple battery rack system, there’s also a screen on the front of the DC combiner cabinet. That will let you dive into all of the individual cell voltages and all the individual temperature sensors.

So, there are a couple of screens on the system in the customer’s property, along with the standard run lights, warning lights, etc.


Plus…

There’s a couple more thing that I’d like to add. First, regarding sales, we offer these commercial solutions as a direct sale, and we are also working with some wholesalers as well. If you’ve got any enquiries, email commercial@givenergy.co.uk, or give us a call – myself, Murtaza, or Danny from GivEnergy Commercial will answer the phone.

Last, in terms of new product, we’re also working on a commercial All in One – a battery and inverter in one combined unit. I’m not sure of an exact release date, but if you keep an eye on our website and social media channels then we’ll release information as we know more.


Want to see this session in action? Watch the video for yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_GrQBbXK6U&t=4s


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