SoCore Energy, NRTC’s solar and power storage partner, has officially changed its name to ENGIE Distributed Solar. The name change this month follows the company’s acquisition earlier this year by ENGIE SA, a multinational energy company. With the addition of SoCore personnel and assets, ENGIE becomes one the nation’s leading solar energy companies. NRTC will work with it to develop, build and operate solar projects.
“There are a tremendous number of opportunities in solar for cooperatives. ENGIE now brings more resources to the table,” said Brad Seibert, NRTC’s VP, Next-Generation Energy. “We’re seeing more projects focusing solar and storage. We should be able to create a lot of opportunity in the near term.”
Longer-term, ENGIE’s resources could facilitate larger-scale alternative energy projects than NRTC and SoCore have conducted to date, he said.
With ENGIE’s resources, NRTC also will be able to do more to customize solar projects to fit cooperative members’ specific needs. ENGIE can support projects ranging from 1 megawatt (MW) community solar operations up to 100 MW utility-scale projects.
Traditionally, ENGIE worldwide focused energy generation based on fossil fuels, but changed its strategy beginning in 2014 by ceasing coal-based investments and acquiring alternative energy companies. By the end of 2016, ENGIE had sold 75 percent of assets it held in the United States before the strategy change.
“Today, there are a few countries that supply all the others with energy, the big producers of gas and oil,” ENGIE’s worldwide CEO Isabelle Kocher recently wrote on Twitter (translated from French). “With renewable energy, we move from an economy of scarcity to a world where resources are infinite and better distributed.”
Renewable energy, or as ENGIE calls it, “decarbonization,” is part of a “three-Ds” overall strategy.” Two other elements of the new direction are “decentralization” and “digitization.” Rather than investments in large, centralized generation plants, the company is more open to distributed energy over wide areas. And like NRTC, ENGIE is concentrating on analytics and digital communications to improve energy efficiency.
ENGIE in North America employs more than 4,200 workers and generates annual revenue of about $3.5 billion. It operates subsidiaries involved with retail energy, energy services, power generation, natural gas and energy storage. While it has subsidiaries working on various alternative energy projects, the SoCore acquisition represents ENGIE’s entry into solar technology.
NRTC, through ENGIE, will seek to build on its past three years of solar projects. NRTC reached a Master Representative and Marketing Agreement with SoCore Energy in 2015 and has since been working on solar projects for rural electric cooperatives. Among the notable NRTC/SoCore collaborations has been a utility-scale project for Dairyland Power Cooperative in Wisconsin. The two companies also have been working closely to promote battery-based power storage technology.
Pictured is part of the installation at Dakota Electric Association, Farmington, MN, another utility-scale NRTC/SoCore project which went into operation in October 2017.