After the departures of two high-level leaders, Advanced Microgrid Solutions picked up a new C-suite member.
The San Francisco-based commercial storage developer hired Ryan Hanley, formerly vice president of grid solutions at SolarCity, to serve as chief product officer. In that role, he'll oversee "product" in an expansive sense -- not just the battery systems going into stores and office buildings, but the economic optimization software that operates them and the analytics used to prioritize new project sites for customers.
Hanley has spent the past few years trying to build actionable business strategies around the frequently discussed idea that distributed energy resources can serve as lucrative grid assets, providing value to host customers, grid operators and ratepayers alike. He led the effort to transform the largest rooftop solar installer from a "construction business" into a "platform company" that leverages its portfolio of customer-sited assets for grid services.
"The fact that we can bundle [solar, storage and other DERs] together and actually sell a product that saves the customer money, provides the utility service and also makes us a profit is a big milestone -- maybe an under-spoken milestone of where we're going,” he said at an event in the fall of 2016.
SolarCity, though, remained first and foremost a company that installs solar on people's roofs. Then it got subsumed into Tesla, which first and foremost makes electric cars and spun off a side business packaging its batteries for stationary storage. The grid services concept still hasn't risen to the top of the company's crowded and high-stakes to-do list.
At AMS, though, grid services are pretty much the reason the whole company exists.
"AMS has always been a company that saw where this industry is going, moving into something distributed and transactive, and formulated itself to really bet on the industry going that way," Hanley said in an interview at the company's airy rooftop conference-room gazebo.
The business model chases two stacked value streams. It deploys fleets of energy storage across commercial and industrial customers' portfolio of properties, sharing the energy bill savings achieved by demand management. Meanwhile, AMS contracts with utilities in those areas to dispatch its fleet of batteries on command.
The company has 120 megawatts under contract in California, 90 megawatts of which will serve utility Southern California Edison.
Fifteen systems are already up and running, serving customer demand management with lithium-ion batteries made by Tesla. The first 2 megawatts of the SCE contract obligation will kick in November 1, with the rest coming on-line staggered over the coming year.
That makes Hanley's arrival timely, as he rounds out the leadership team under CEO Susan Kennedy, who founded the company after a career in two California governors' administrations and serving on the California Public Utilities Commission.
Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer Katherine Ryzhaya left early this year to join the leadership team at solar-plus-storage developer Lightsource North America, the new U.S. arm of the British company. Then, in June, residential solar company Sunrun hired away Audrey Lee, AMS' vice president of analytics and design, to serve as that company's vice president of grid services.
"Ryan's vision, experience and passion for transforming the grid by scaling clean distributed energy is unmatched," Kennedy said. "Combined with the incredible talent of the AMS team, it's a hell of a lot of firepower.”
As for the specifics of what's on his plate, Hanley couldn't say much, having just started. He did identify several challenges ahead for the storage industry more broadly: reduce the cost of batteries, streamline the permitting process, expand fair wholesale market access and expand data transparency.
He also hinted at international expansion to come.
"The opportunity is global, and AMS is set to be global," Hanley said. "What AMS has already put in place allows [us] to have lofty aspirations, and what it has put in place applies in different markets around the world."
That's a sentiment we've been hearing more and more lately.
Green Charge recently discussed leveraging its corporate parent Engie for international storage development. AES Energy Storage is forming the Fluence joint venture with Siemens to push storage through the latter's global sales network. Greensmith's acquisition by Finnish power equipment maker Wartsila this summer sets the stage for a similar strategy.
Before it can conquer the world, though, AMS needs to deliver on its hefty SCE contract. That should keep Hanley busy for the time being.