Software company Geli released a new online program to streamline and optimize the design process for commercial storage.

Project developers can choose among various software systems for sketching out new installations, but they don’t calculate the project specs with the same modeling the customer will eventually use to automate the system.

“It’s not that the tools now aren’t useful; they just don't provide a realistic expectation for what the product will likely do,” said Andrew Tanner, VP of business development at Geli.

Tanner likens this to planning a solar array in New York using a weather file from Arizona: You can run an optimization and pick the theoretical best size, but it won’t account for how the system will actually perform once it’s built.

Geli’s ESyst program changes this by incorporating the company’s operational parameters and commercially available system sizes into the design stage for storage systems with and without solar. During its beta period, ESyst drew 500 users who modeled more than 150 megawatt-hours of economically optimized storage installations.

“This is the first time that an energy storage management software provider or automation platform has provided direct their analytics” for developers, Tanner said.

Several leading software companies also develop their own projects, like Green Charge Networks, Advanced Microgrid Solutions and Stem. They can size their systems internally based on how they will automate the completed project. That could create a competitive disadvantage for independent developers, integrated solution providers and the original equipment manufacturers trying to sell to them.

Source: Geli

Geli doesn’t build its own projects; its goal is to make money by providing the software to automate other people’s batteries.

As such, the company is offering ESyst for free to interested parties -- you just have to request login credentials from the website -- in the hopes that people who use it to will then sign up as customers for the operational software.

That might not be a surefire revenue-generation strategy, but there’s an argument to be made that the best way to attract customers is just to make yourself useful to them.

ESyst does that in two major ways: It makes storage design easier and more nuanced for all those developers who don’t have a fancy in-house app, and it helps hardware providers get a better sense of the system size configurations that customers really need.

Someone could design a simple backup power or self-consumption project on ESyst and walk away. But, Tanner said, if customers move beyond those functions to more sophisticated value-stacking, they’ll need Geli’s software to realize the design potential.

The new software could also serve as a gateway to storage development for people who haven’t done it before.

“We see this as a game-changer for solar developers who are looking to transition to being solar-plus-storage energy developers,” Tanner said. It provides them with the “ability to size the storage system and provide credible continuity from analytics to automation.”

We’ll see if users agree. In the meantime, the data from the beta period offers some juicy insights into the current state of storage economics.

One striking takeaway: You don’t need Self-Generation Incentive Program funds to make a project look good in California -- the ESyst algorithm found some projects could generate 15 percent ROI with the federal Investment Tax Credit alone.

That finding should still be validated with real-world projects that can make money sans SGIP. If that works out, this software could use data-driven economic modeling to counter the prevailing narrative that claims storage is still too expensive.