All-in-One Planning Tool Speeds DER Proposals for Engineers
The modeling tool from Xendee streamlines the proposal process for distributed energy resources projects by merging financial feasibility, quoting, engineering, and design into one platform.
PROPOSE, a feasibility modeling tool from California-based Xendee, can help engineering teams streamline financial and design considerations for distributed energy resources (DER) infrastructure projects, including electric vehicle (EV) charging and microgrid installations.
Workers installing a microgrid. Image used courtesy of National Renewable Energy Laboratory
By combining financial and technical feasibility into one software platform, PROPOSE speeds up the process of responding to requests for proposals (RFPs) for microgrids, which use locally generated and stored energy to facilitate the integration of DERs like solar panels and wind turbines into EV charging infrastructure.
The platform prepares detailed quotes for microgrid components, such as generators, chargers, and solar PV systems. Users can select options that meet their project’s energy requirements and budget. The tool models financial metrics like utility rates, tariffs, and levelized cost of energy (LCOE)—all factors in RFPs—without needing extensive feasibility studies.
Breaking the Bottleneck in Energy Project Approvals
With this tool, Xendee aims to alleviate early planning bottlenecks that slow the interconnection process for new renewable energy projects. Queues for power plants seeking transmission interconnection have grown substantially over the last decade, including a 40% surge in connection requests in 2022. Projects built from 2018 to 2022 faced a wait time of nearly four years compared to two years for those in 2000-2007. Of the 2 TW of generation and storage capacity awaiting grid connection today, more than 95% represents solar, wind, and battery storage resources.
With this ever-growing backlog, many renewable energy projects struggle to move past the initial feasibility study phase, which determines financial viability and the appropriate DERs. Only 21% of all projects proposed from 2000 to 2017 had started commercial operations by late 2022, with 72% withdrawing from the queues.
Stages along the interconnection study process. Image used courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Page 41)
Xendee’s PROPOSE software can eliminate bottlenecks in the early phases of these projects. Business development teams can model the key feasibility parameters for their proposals and then transfer technical planning to engineering staff. By combining these operations, Xendee claims PROPOSE slashed project times by 90%, as shown in the initial data.
Xendee says its software significantly reduces customer acquisition costs for component supplies, turnaround times for quotes, and errors that might occur in the proposal process.
How PROPOSE Works
Users can select project parameters using Xendee’s DER technology catalogs and databases for EV charging infrastructure, utility tariffs, building loads, and energy usage models. Combining this information into one dataset reduces pricing errors and streamlines technical design in the later development stages.
Settings for a microgrid project on the PROPOSE platform. Image used courtesy of Xendee
For example, let’s consider a solar-powered EV charging microgrid in California. Teams can use the catalog to review optimal technology options, such as a series of 550 JinkoSolar units at 223 kW of capacity (totaling $334,000) paired with a FreeWire 150 kW Boost Charger (at $162,000) and a 50 kW Generac generator ($35,000). With these selections, the total equipment cost amounts to $531,000.
After determining the right technology for their project, planners can use Xendee’s weather data to understand how real-world conditions could impact the project’s resilience. For example, it’s helpful to consider the average energy usage at peak demand in the project location, such as the summer months in California. Engineers can input the proposed solar microgrid design to determine what percentage of the load would be covered if an outage happens on a sunny day in August compared to a cloudy day.
The platform also summarizes LCOE metrics to meet system loads, capital and operating expenses, and other investment data over the project’s lifetime. It also provides utility costs, including electricity rates, energy and demand charges for purchasing electricity, and tariffs for buildings and EV chargers.
Engineers can also compare an existing system’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emission savings with their proposed one. For instance, the current setup might cost $144,000 annually with 174 metric tons (MT) of CO2 emissions, while the proposed design could offer improvements amounting to $79,000 and 19 MT of CO2. The platform then breaks down all monthly expenses for the optimized system.
PROPOSE presents annual balance projections (in kWh) for the total electricity purchase, alongside on-site generation from renewables and conventional diesel generators. Monthly energy production from the proposed generation sources, aggregated demand, dispatch, and outage details are also outlined in the platform.
Overview of a microgrid project using Xendee’s PROPOSE and DESIGN tools. Image used courtesy of Xendee
After the proposal is accepted, the technical parameters can be loaded into Xendee’s DESIGN platform. For example, engineers working on an EV charging station can set infrastructure technologies like custom inverters, define a linear install space, and explore low-carbon fuel incentives. They can also determine investment specifications for their equipment model, including the cost per charging station, power ratings, lifetime, efficiency, and fixed maintenance costs.