HomeDecentralized EnergyCogeneration CHPGo Electric's microgrid controller growing in appeal

Go Electric’s microgrid controller growing in appeal

Indiana-based Go Electric’s battery energy storage offering has caught the eye of the US military. CEO and President Lisa Laughner tells Decentralized Energy the company is confident its equipment can perform just as well in other markets.

Founded in 2011, Go Electric developed a storage solution that met a need keenly felt in military circles, and the attributes that play so well for that sector are now increasingly being recognised in other spaces.
Go Electric principals (from left) Tony Soverns, Alex Creviston and Lisa Laughner
It’s a combined battery energy storage system withà‚ a patented microgrid controller and automated demand response software, which can connectà‚ with regular standby generators, diesel generators, or combined heat and power (CHP) plants and more.à‚ 

“We were formed with a passion to try and help renewable adoption to accelerate. Our technology is primarily a patented power management technology. It helps not only CHP and generators but renewable energies go on and off the grid in a sub-cycle fashion.”

“We produced an inverter system with a built in microgrid controller that attaches to a battery module or any kind of firm energy resource module. It keeps a military base very energy secure and also energy efficient. We can perform peak shaving, power factor correction and load shifting as well as keep the lights on and everything up and running as an uninterruptible power source once the grid goes out.”

The AutoLYNC Microgrid Controller is a robust piece of kit that allows any type of AC OR DC energy resource to be connected to it.

“It will sense what type it is and depending on the priorities of the customer we can prioritize by setting it to function for economics or energy security.”

“At a base, for example, it will minimise the battery capacity it has for load shifting or peak shaving and save a lot of that battery for resiliency making sure its operable when the grid goes out.”

“It monitors everything in real time, and I’m talking milliseconds, constantly balancing load and generation real time so any spike that comes through, whether a large cloud going overhead impacting on renewables or a large motor going on inside a base facility, the battery is able to account for all of that and make sure everything is stable.”

“Other controllers we looked at have a lot more latency in how they manage things. Unfortunately you don’t really have more than a second or second and a half before things can really take off and get out of control so being able to monitor at the millisecond level is what makes our system work very well.”

It’s a comprehensive solution in every sense, but in a competitive marketplace, what was it that most enticed military purchasing brass?

“The feedback we got from the department of defence is that they love the turnkey plug and play system capability we bring to the table. Normally bases have to buy a separate microgrid controller and all the individual distributed energy resources and system integrator as well as installer to put it altogether and hope it works well.”

“We decided that was way too much work so by putting the microgrid controller inside our inverter systemà‚ it becomes a hub for everything else and it installs just like a UPS. It makes it simple though for a military base with multiple buildings and resources it is a little more complex.”
Go Electric logo
Two aspects happened to get Go Electric on US Department of Defense radar, with theory and practice proving their worth.

“The first was in 2013 when the department had a research for proposal (RFP) for the microgrid programme at Camp Smith in Hawaii. They put forward an open RFP for that as well as an SBIR ” (Small business innovation research rapid innovation fund) offer. That’s a grant opportunity and you have to be a small business to win. That’s the only differentiator in that funding.”

“We wrote a compelling programme for what our system could do in order to get shortlisted for that programme.”

What led on from that shortlisting was inclusion in the army’s SPIDERS
(Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security) project. This is a joint effort between the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security to incorporate cyber-secure micro grid solutions that enhance continuity of operations at DoD bases in the face of electrical power disruptions.

Go Electric’s deliverables were a 2MW micro grid consisting of twoà‚ 250KW ISIMs (Integrated battery Storage and Inverter Modules); two 725 kW Caterpillar generator;à‚ microgrid integration and control of 3.5 MW generation & storage and integration with theà‚ cyber-secure base-wide micro grid.à‚ 

“When we were shortlisted we wrote a full proposal on the SPIDERS project and doing due diligence our two lead engineers had already done a demo project with their technology before we formed Go Electric together. That project was with SAIC, which is a major military company here in the US, 3 hours away at a military base in southern Indiana.”

“The head of the SPIDERS program as part of their check went down to see that project. à‚ They were impressed with it and that clinched it.”

Unlike other jurisdictions the US government is a positive facilitator when it comes to innovative small and medium enterprises, as Laughner acknowledges.

“The US government is a good early adopter of technologies. There is substantial grant monies available for universities, technology programmes and small or large corporations. The Department of Defense and other government agencies are always on the scout for compelling new techs that they can help support. This is especially true for the Department of Defense – Anything that is energy or military capability related that can accelerate safety or energy security or troop security, they are very interested.”

In the world of decentralized energy, the military repeatedly figures as an early adopter of new innovations in the area. It stands to reason that the virtues of the technology would gain wider favour and Go Electric’s CEO agrees the company is in a good place, in terms of roll-out to other sectors.

“Our company is scalable with the military microgrid but the underlying capability and DER management control is even more scalable on the commercial side.”

“So what we’ve done is taken everything we’ve learned on military microgrids and continue to refine a turnkey system that can be attached to any building that has renewables on it or a CHP or a backup generator on it and they don’t want the power to ever go out.”

There are the obvious candidates for the technology, where persistent power supply truly matters, such as the hospital environment but Laughner sees greater appreciation at hitherto unconsidered sectors.

The company currently has a proposal for a large hotel chain in New York City that utilizes CHP, among other clients as its appeal broadens.

“There were businesses worldwide which were not typically interested in buying uninterruptible power supplies or backup systems because their margins are so slim. That’s such as grocery stores and petrol stations for example. We are targeting those buildings who don’t want to throw food away or lose money by not pumping petrol. They want to keep their lights on when the grid doges out and save on their energy costs when the gird is normally operating. That’s the future of Go Electric ” more on the commercial uptake.”

The recent win at
Tooele Army Depot in Utah was primarily gained through what Go Electric can offer from an energy security perspective. But there are efficiencies and bottom line gains also in the reckoning.

“With Tooele, we are able to provide some load shifting and peak shaving on a portion of the load there that will save them maybe 5 per cent of their total energy bill. Then we can also extend the solar aspect. There is a lot of solar PV at the site we can absorb in excess and release in the evening ” that saves a lot on cost too.”

While the emergence into other markets continues, the company is continuing to develop its relationship with the military.

“We are due to announce a third military microgrid project we have just won “and that’s set to happen shortly. We are also demonstrating a mobile microgrid for a forward operating Base. There are forward operating bases all round the world between the US and its allies so we are hoping that demonstration will lead to a big uptake.”


Go Electric wins storage contract for army microgrid