An Introduction to the Keystone EMS Microgrid Controller

The Keystone EMS simplifies microgrid controls, providing users peace of mind

The Keystone Energy Management System (EMS) is best described by the following quote:

“If you have to think about it, we’ve done our job wrong.”

Those are the words of Steven Fletcher, a Fortress Power software engineer who’s worked with Keystone EMS since 2018.

When discussing the Keystone EMS, Fletcher says it’s important to view the device in two distinctly different lines of thought:

  • Keystone EMS as a generic microgrid controller
  • Keystone EMS as a dedicated, specific EMS controller for the eSpire and eSpire mini systems

“While the controller to this day is still a generic, EMS control system, it is also the intelligence of the eSpire system,” he explained.

The advent of the Keystone EMS spurned from the challenges of working with microgrids, specifically the task of ensuring that disparate components of a system from numerous manufacturers can work together efficiently.

By attaching the Keystone EMS to an existing microgrid, or utilizing the software with a new installation, users can ensure the energy generated is used to its fullest capacity to power their facilities while making and saving money.

“Does the controller tell me when my equipment is failing? Does it tell me when it’s working? And does it tell me how well it’s working?” asked Fletcher.

In short, the ability to answer ‘yes’ to each of those questions is the rationale for the Keystone EMS’ existence.

When Fortress Power acquired the Keystone EMS, focusing on the ability to pair the system with the eSpire or eSpire Mini, nothing about the system itself changed. Instead, the provisioning was simplified.

Of course, Fortress Power engineers know the eSpire system quite well. With the Keystone EMS originally designed to be able to work with any battery present at a specific site, pairing the system with an eSpire or eSpire Mini removes an entire set of variables. The data points and behavior characteristics are always the same.

At the same time, the system maintains its ability to be flexible. There may already be existing PV or generator sets at a site. “We can support that,” Fletcher clarified. “If you have existing hardware and want to attach an eSpire to that system, we can support it. That’s all part of this.”

Keystone EMS in Use – What Does It Do?

Back to that original quote that explains the Keystone EMS’ existence.

“If you have to think about it, we’ve done our job wrong.”

In essence, if the user or business owner finds the operation of the microgrid to be a daily concern, the system is running ineffectively. A proper control system considers your particular needs, utility tariffs, and specific needs – peak shaving, load level, backup, on-grid or off-grid. Each factor is discussed during setup and taken into consideration in the initial arrangement of the microgrid.

As a result, you’ll only know what the Keystone EMS is doing if something goes wrong. Sure, you can check in any time to see how it is operating, or to show someone how much money you’re saving – but unless you’re the person managing the facility, you shouldn’t need to look at the Keystone EMS.

“You can go about your business without having to know how the microgrid is operating. And you can do it with a lower cost of energy and greater reliability,” explained Fletcher. “That’s our job, to think about the microgrid.”

And if something does go wrong? Call Fortress Power. The company prides itself on industry-standard customer service, and a team of knowledgeable experts is waiting to address any concerns or issues with your microgrid.

Managing the Keystone EMS

We’ve established that only one person should need to think about the Keystone EMS – the facility or site manager. What perks do they enjoy with the software?

Control Summary: This is the breakdown of how the system is saving you money. Anyone who’s curious about the microgrid’s performance can view this summary, which shows energy consumption and savings in a direct comparison to how those figures would look without the system.

Monthly Reporting Features: Every month, we automatically generate a summary of your performance from both an energy management perspective (where did your power go?) and a financial perspective (how much did your system save you?)

Alarms and Alerting Features: Highly configurable notifications for staff to bring them up to speed when something needs further attention or repair. This includes regular, routine maintenance such as panel cleaning. These notifications are also helpful if you need to schedule a technician to come out to the site and look at the system as well.

Ideally, Fletcher says you can check in on the system weekly – if that – and focus on running your business rather than the microgrid.

“Your business is your business – not the microgrid,” he summarized.

“The controller will direct your system to use the power in the most economically efficient manner for your use case. It depends on a number of factors – are you able to sell power back to the utility? Are you using the system for resiliency and redundancy? Are you using it to cut your electricity costs when prices are the highest?

“All those factors matter, but we can take each one into account and find the best way to save you money.”


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