Scaling Solar+ for Small and Medium Commercial Buildings

Accelerating adoption of solar+storage in small- and medium-sized commercial buildings.

Humboldt State University Sponsored Programs Foundation


Arcata, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Projects Updates/The Results

The convenience store microgrid at Blue Lake Rancheria successfully demonstrated its load-shedding and islanding capabilities while responding to California's grid needs in the September 2020 fire season. Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University conducted capability and performance testing of the solar plus storage system from August to September 2020, and as of December 2020, the research team's final report is under review for publication. The final meeting for this agreement is scheduled for January 2021.

The Issue

Although many distributed energy resources (DERs) are being designed to power and support the fast-changing electric grid, these DERs are often procured and operated separately. Without coordination between them, there are missed opportunities to reduce the soft costs of deployment and better support bulk power and distribution system operations. Integration technology elements appropriate for small-to-medium sized commercial buildings (SMB) are not commercially available, making it too costly to effectively deploy smart, integrated DERs.

Project Innovation

This project is developing standardized components for a Solar+ system designed specifically for the SMB sector. The research team is designing, implementing, operating, and evaluating a Solar+ system in a pilot scale application at a convenience store. The project is designed to innovate across three key priority areas necessary for technology scale-up: hardware design guidelines, integration software, and site targeting. Filling these knowledge gaps will help move the deployment of Solar+ technologies forward, thereby bringing substantial benefit to individual building owners, as well as opening opportunities to provide service to the broader distribution and bulk power systems. This project focuses on the convenience store/fueling station SMB sector, but lessons learned and products developed can be transferred to other SMB sectors.

Project Benefits

This project is integrating DERs, including energy storage, and controllable loads to increase the value of Solar+ systems in the SMB sector. Optimized relative sizing of batteries to PV and flexible operations from model-predictive control (MPC)-enabled building automation are demonstrating how investment in an integrated system can save costs and create efficiency compared to standalone PV and storage. The project is developing and demonstrating an open-source MPC algorithm. Improved hardware-software interfaces integrate the solar PV system with localized energy storage and MPC-improved load control systems. This allows SMB owners to optimize the benefits of distributed solar and approach net-zero energy buildings while also supporting the larger grid power system.

Lower Costs

Lower Costs

This project will reduce onsite energy demands and peak loads, resulting in customer bill savings. For example, the estimated site benefits include energy and demand charge savings of $0.20 per watt of PV per year, along with pay

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental & Public Health

Preliminary calculations indicate significant DER capacity could be deployed through the framework and systems this project is developing. On first order, if each of the 12,000 convenience stores in California were to install or

Greater Reliability

Greater Reliability

This project will expand the ability to provide power for critical services (e.g., fuel dispensing and refrigeration loads) in times of emergency when the utility grid is disabled (e.g., due to weather-related disaster). These pr

Key Project Members

Project Member

Peter Alstone



Robert Colburn Electric Inc


Serraga Energy, LLC at Blue Lake Rancheria

Match Partners

Contact the Team