How big data and the cloud can manage grid batteries

A quiet startup called Greensmith has been building a business out of connecting, controlling and monitoring large batteries installed on the power grid and used for energy storage. Greensmith CEO John Jung explained to me in an interview that his company is bringing distributed computing to the world of energy storage and his connected system and analytics can enable utilities and power companies to efficiently use batteries to better manage the grid.
Greensmith isn’t a battery maker itself, but the company works with battery manufacturers and connects batteries with computing and networks. Then the company’s software can monitor the batteries in real time via the cloud — grabbing data commonly once per second — and also control the charging and discharging of the battery to help utilities with various grid applications.

The power grid works by constantly balancing supply and demand (generation and load) and must be kept at a 60 Hz frequency. That’s a complex and difficult task given today’s grid has little energy storage capacity. Utilities often times use generators to regulate the frequency on the grid, but are increasingly looking at batteries as an alternative. Greensmith’s system can help utilities use batteries for frequency regulation.
Greensmith’s battery management system is also being used alongside clean power, to help solar and wind systems over come the problem of intermittency. Solar power only works when the sun shines and wind power only works when the wind blows. But batteries can be used to release power when the sun and wind die down, helping to smooth over that drop in generation.
For example, one of Greensmith’s battery management systems is being used by solar maker Amonix at the Cal Poly campus in Southern California. The battery system is being used to smooth out the power from the solar system during night and peak consumption times.
Greensmith’s software also collects all of the data — like battery health, charge/discharge state, clean power generation levels, utility grid management data — and offers it all up via an interface, so the utility worker can look in one spot and see how the batteries are performing. The company is battery agnostic, and started out by connecting lead acid batteries, but more commonly now connects lithium ion batteries.
Jung says Greensmith has 14 customers for its battery control and monitoring systems including utilities like Hawaii Electric. The company is five years old but has been relatively quiet to date, though had a booth at the DistribuTECH event. Jung tells me that Greensmith raised a series A round of funding, and is looking to close a Series B round by the middle of this year.