I launched this “From the Founder” column last month and used it to go back to HOMER’s roots as a mechanism to serve the energy access world. This month, I want to continue the conversation about how to rapidly and efficiently help millions of people understand how distributed power systems work — at the opposite end of the spectrum. Specifically, I’m referring to companies and organizations that are serious about being competitive in the distributed generation market and want to educate others about the basics of microgrids as well as about the products and services they offer.
A simple tool for a complex problem
Microgrids are complex. When designing a microgrid, organizations must consider new technologies with very different characteristics. None of these individual technologies can do it all. So which combination of technologies best serves which applications? The answer is…it depends. It depends on the locally available resources. It depends on local costs. The best solution is almost always a hybrid or combination of technologies. It’s not a simple problem, especially when storage is added to the mix.
HOMERⓇPro is a great tool for helping energy service companies, EPCs, and other engineering firms or product manufacturers understand what energy applications are most attractive for microgrids in terms of location and energy requirements, the prospective benefits of the microgrid, and the best mix of technologies for that specific microgrid application. HOMER Pro analyzes any place in the world and helps the user understand the least-cost solution for combining multiple energy and storage technologies. Essentially, HOMER Pro can help users understand what’s possible, driving informed decision making so that small, distributed power systems can be developed with confidence.
Meeting the ever-changing demands of the microgrid industry
We began working on HOMER in 1992 at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). At that time, we realized that microgrids were going to be the “next big thing,” specifically for energy-access purposes, and we needed a software tool that could predict how they would work. After we began distributing HOMER, we soon had requests for new features and functionality. These requests have continued to evolve and change as the industry has expanded and, to that end, we have consistently evolved the HOMER engine and our flagship product, HOMER Pro, to meet the ever-changing demands and needs of our users and the industry.
While HOMER Pro will continue to grow and evolve, we think it’s important to focus on specific applications and products that can work in concert with the HOMER engine. Last month, I talked about HOMER QuickStart, a greatly simplified version of HOMER that is meant to assist in understanding microgrids at a basic level. To develop HOMER QuickStart, we created an API (Application Programming Interface). Now we’re making this HOMER SaaS (Software as a Service) API available to clients.
The HOMER SaaS API enables organizations to create a custom web-based application with the HOMER engine as its foundation. The API allows organizations to customize their interface with the HOMER algorithm and simplify the information they or their potential customers can input and output from HOMER.
The adaptability of HOMER SaaS API
HOMER SaaS API provides access to all of the objects in HOMER Pro — both inputs from the user and outputs from the program. This access includes items like project location, economic information, site-specific resources, system sizing, performance details, and ROI. The web app that’s built on top of the HOMER SaaS API can also collect additional data, like contact information or anything else that’s important.
The end application can be as simple or as complex as desired. The possibilities for HOMER SaaS API are endless, but some examples of the types of applications currently under development include:
- Our own HOMER QuickStart
- Equipment manufacturers who want to get qualified sales leads based on HOMER models of their own equipment
- Software companies looking to include an optimization tool as part of a larger suite
- Any organization that wants to make it easy to explore power options for application-specific problems such as rural health clinics, mining operations, or cell towers.
There are many different options for the SaaS API, depending on your needs. Please contact our sales team to learn more.
Flexible, focused, and moving forward
HOMER SaaS API and QuickStart have more in common than just their technology They represent a new focus and a shift toward more specialized applications that work in concert with HOMER Pro. And, all of our applications are built off the well-established HOMER Engine.
Our commitment is to continue to modernize and expand HOMER’s capabilities as the market grows and matures. Watch this column for even more product announcements in the coming months. We will have more exciting announcements to share, and we appreciate your ongoing support as we continue to grow.