SunCrate Provides Mobile Power – Business Record
A SunCrate, developed with the help of a grant from the Iowa Energy Office, is installed in Ames to test its solar energy collection and distribution capabilities. Photo by Michael Crumb
A Sioux City-based company harnesses the power of the sun and uses portable storage units that can provide electricity to homes and businesses in the event of a natural disaster, or to supplement current energy supplies when electrical loads are high .
SunCrate was founded by Dolf Ivener after he started thinking about putting solar power systems on pig enclosures. Due to changes made by rural electric co-ops in the way containments were measured, he began to look at how to use batteries with the solar power system. He envisioned a shipping container with a battery and solar panels inside that can be deployed in a short time.
“It’s basically a mobile power plant that we can deliver and drop off,” Ivener said. “In the power plant, you have solar power, you have a battery, and you have a generator. You basically have a hybrid nano-grid.”
The mobile unit, a 20ft shipping container, is designed with charging outlets on the outside so people can plug in their phones, electric cars and other items they might need during a catastrophic event . The crate can even provide energy to heat or cool care facilities such as hospitals as well as other community facilities.
SunCrate has been in development for five to six years, Ivener said, and the biggest challenge was finding the right battery. It used batteries made by LG, Samsung, a battery from a Nissan Leaf electric car and others including Tesla.
“I pretty much went for Tesla, so we have a Tesla battery, a bunch of solar panels, and the Tesla battery communicates with the generator,” Ivener said.
SunCrate received a $180,800 grant from the Iowa Bureau of Energy and partnered with the Iowa National Guard to develop the unit with help from Iowa State University. ‘Iowa. The grant was funded by the US Department of Energy.
Ryan Young, project manager at the Iowa Bureau of Energy, said SunCrate matches the work done by the Iowa Bureau of Energy because of its resiliency and storage mobility.
“It kind of hit all of those buttons for us and it was definitely something we wanted to get involved in,” Young said.
He said SunCrate is believed to have the potential for widespread development.
“With the storms that have happened and everything that’s going on in Texas, it’s started a lot of these conversations about the true potential of this type of resource,” Young said,
The cost of a SunCrate unit starts at around $40,000 with storage ranging from 26 kilowatt hours to 250 kilowatt hours.
A test unit is installed near Bandshell Park in Ames, next to the town’s power station, where it is used to charge electric vehicles, Ivener said.
But the goal is to do much more than that.
Ivener said the average home in the United States consumes about 30 kilowatts per day. SunCrate could provide seven to eight days of backup power for that home, he said.
Ivener said he sees SunCrate’s applications ranging from everyday use when the electrical load is high to providing backup power during natural disasters, like last summer’s derecho or power outages. observed during recent winter storms in Texas.
The project is in its second phase of development, which involves identifying more places to place SunCrate to test in various situations.
“What you don’t want is for the box to sit there, unplugged; that defeats the purpose,” Ivener said. “It can be plugged into grid stability and generate electricity and all those things, and in the event of a natural disaster, you can pick it up and move it around pretty quickly.”
SunCrate is located in a 15,000 square foot warehouse in Sioux City, which would allow it to quickly ramp up production if demand increases, Ivener said.
He thinks the best places for its use are in the southern United States, where less electricity is used to heat homes and businesses.
Two years ago, he took a SunCrate to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the country, and donated it to a school, Ivener said.
“It’s been working perfectly for 2 and a half years,” he said.
He sees similar applications for providing stable electricity in the United States
“We’re trying to move the needle,” he said. “He’s trying to provide people with reliable, renewable energy.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with the correct spelling on SunCrate.