Blog Post

Ludlow-Taylor: A Brighter Future for a DC Community

Tucked away below the rapidly transforming H Street corridor in Washington DC, Ludlow-Taylor is a public elementary school that serves nearly 500 children and the surrounding community. An award-winning Blue Ribbon institution; Ludlow-Taylor is a model for other public schools across the nation.

As part of its commitment to supporting and engaging with the community, Ludlow-Taylor invested in the installation of a 200 kilowatt (kW) solar array in late 2019 to offset its energy needs and save money for the school system by selling clean energy back to the utility. In a school system where funding can quickly be stretched thin, reducing the monthly utility bills could significantly free up scarce resources to instead be invested in classrooms and school supplies.

But then the Covid pandemic settled in, and everything changed.

Classes were at first canceled, then transitioned to virtual learning experiences as teachers and families worked hard to adjust and accommodate the necessary ‘shelter in place’ safety measures. But without the daily ritual of students arriving in classrooms, the computer lab buzzing along and lunches in the cafeteria, the solar panels were generating more power than was being consumed by the school on site.

The excess solar generation quickly became a financial burden. The structure of the net metering agreement with the local utility, Pepco, only allowed a maximum of 30kW of solar power to be sold back to the grid – and the school had almost 90kW in excess solar generation. So, what was initially intended as an investment that could provide the school significant savings on its monthly electricity bills had become a liability overnight, potentially costing the school money instead of off-setting its utility bills.

In order to maximize the investment of the solar array for the school, satisfy the imposed export limit of 30 kW, avoid the system being shut down by Pepco, as well as capture valuable excess renewable energy, SimpliPhi Power designed a 60 kW/129 kWh 768 VDC lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) battery bank to store the excess solar generation so that it could be utilized by the Community Renewable Energy Facility (CREF). Now the PHI high voltage battery bank combined with the 200 kW solar array benefits both the school and the surrounding community, generating abundant clean energy and immediate financial savings.

SimpliPhi Power partnered with Heila Technologies to provide control, aggregation, and optimization of the distributed energy resources (DERs), on behalf of New Partners Community Solar to deploy the system and provide reliable and cost-effective sustainable energy.

The specific system requirements and necessary operational capabilities were developed by the expert consultants at Amidus, working alongside SUNCATCH ENERGY, the EPC installing the high voltage storage system, and SimpliPhi Power application engineers.

Pepco also uses the excess energy generated and stored in the SimpliPhi battery to provide additional capacity for the low-income community that surrounds Ludlow-Taylor as part of Solar for All, a program of D.C.’s Department of Energy and Environment.

With the addition of an intelligent energy storage system to the existing solar array, Ludlow-Taylor can now power itself with clean energy, support the surrounding community, achieve significant cost reductions to free up critical funding for school resources, and ensure resilient operations in case of power outages.

Across the U.S., low-income households face a disproportionately higher energy burden, defined as the percentage of gross household income spent on energy costs. According to the Department of Energy, the national average energy burden for low-income households is 8.6%, three times higher than for non-low-income households.

While there is a greater opportunity for energy and cost savings for these households, low-income communities face barriers to accessing energy technologies which help make energy more affordable, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery systems. New Partners Community Solar and SimpliPhi Power have been tackling these challenges, working to bring solar capabilities to these communities—like the Washington, D.C. neighborhood surrounding Ludlow-Taylor—that need it most.

SimpliPhi Power delivers safe, reliable and scalable energy storage systems that can solve a wide range of energy, cost and resilience challenges. Whether complementing a renewable energy installation or as a standalone system, homes, businesses, and institutions can take advantage of the clear economic and sustainability benefits of deploying energy storage.