DEIF and its AGC-150 controller made a unique, sustainable microgrid solution possible

Going “off the grid” is typically associated with one’s disappearance from the normal course of human activity. But it has a very different meaning for Headwaters Center in Winter Park, Colorado, a sustainable facility that recently benefited tremendously from the DEIF AGC-150 controller.

Situated among natural grasses, flowers and stunning views of the mountains, Headwaters Center has a crucial mission to bring education and awareness to the public about the impact that river water has on the economy, environment and the everyday lifestyles of Colorado residents.  

With such an important mission, the last thing Headwaters Center wanted to do was to disappear. With the help of DEIF and strategic partner Ageto Energy, going “off grid” meant creating a sustainable energy solution that could operate consistently and independently from the city’s power feed, relying primarily on solar energy and battery storage, with only an occasional boost from two natural gas generators. 

That’s where the DEIF AGC-150 controller came in. And the key stakeholders involved in the project want to make sure everyone knows how successful it has been. 

“We want to use more renewable energy, and to reduce our reliance on carbon-based fuels,” Mike Murray, co-founder and COO of Fort Collins-based Ageto Energy says. “This Headwaters Center project is a great example of what can be done.” 

But like many technical projects of this kind, the Headwaters project was not always successful. Prior to DEIF and Ageto Energy becoming involved, the early attempts to make the Headwaters Center a truly energy-independent facility achieved only marginal success. But that all changed when Ageto Energy and DEIF teamed up to retrofit the existing system.

“The system was running in a less optimized solution,” Murray says. “We brought in DEIF and their new AGC-150 controller to replace a non-DEIF controller. “That allowed us to parallel and synchronize the generators onto the [building’s] AC bus. This was an upgrade from the previous [non-DEIF] controller, which was not able to do that.”

Mike Murray Ageto

“DEIF was great to work with. The pricing was competitive and the controller allowed us to perform everything we were looking to accomplish.”

Mike Murray

Co-founder and COO, Ageto Energy

Ageto Energy worked with DEIF to reconfigure the power system so that energy generated by the solar panels could be more efficiently stored by the batteries, using the generators only for back-up power when needed. The ultimate solution was the DEIF AGC-150 controller, which enabled Ageto Energy to synchronize the two generators and run them parallel to the AC bus. 

The batteries serve as the reservoir of the facility’s energy storage system. The batteries store the power charged by the solar panels on the building’s rooftop, or from the generators themselves. “When the Ageto ARC controller calls for the DEIF AGC-150 to start, it runs at a base load set point, in parallel to the AC bus,” Murray explains, “and the DEIF controller gets a signal from Ageto to start the generator, ramping it up to its set point and keeping it there.” 

The AGC-150 controller also provides important safety factors, monitoring the oil and cooling temperatures in order to protect the generators, Murray says.

“If we hadn’t brought in Ageto and DEIF, we would have the generators running all the time, and we wouldn’t be able to efficiently run the building,” says Holli Riebel, executive director of Headwaters Center. “We rely mostly on the power of the sun and the battery system, and without the DEIF controller, we wouldn’t be able to modulate the generator system for consistent energy.”

Holli Ribel Headwaters

“DEIF and Ageto were wonderful partners to work with. They were really collaborative with us, they were advocates for us if we needed anything or worked with other vendors, their customer service was superb.”

Holli Riebel

Executive Director, Headwaters

When it came time to retrofit the system with the DEIF AGC controller, the operation went smoothly. Murray explains that the controller fit the same hole as the previous controller, “and it had everything built in to a single box.  It also had the governor and AVR control all built in, with all of the paralleling and synchronizing capability that we required,” Murray says.

AGC 150 controller
Cords ready for assembling

The DEIF AGC-150 controller enabled the paralleling and synchronization of the generators onto the AC bus, allowing for integration of the solar panels, battery storage and two HiPower natural gas generators (130kW) for back-up power.  This was a significant upgrade from the previous controller that did not have such capability.

The DEIF AGC-150 is an all-in-one controller, with an integrated six-line power flow display. This single controller can be programmed for main power, bus tie breakers and generators, eliminating the need for other controllers in inventory. The controller also allows for emulation of an application without it actually running, using the low voltage, DC side of the unit, which helps in the design and application of the product before being put to use in the field. It is designed to parallel with other non-DEIF controllers through an analog plus-or-minus five-volt signal, making it versatile in its operation.

The ease of use of the AGC-150 controller did not go unnoticed by Ageto Energy. “It was a quick, simple system to set up, the parameters were easy to set up, and we were able to take these standard non-paralleling generators and upgrade them to be parallel and synchronizing-capable to integrate it into the microgrid system,” Murray says.  

The DEIF AGC 150 controller proved to be an easy and quick retrofit for the project. The controller’s parameters were simple to set up, allowing for standard non-paralleling generators to be upgraded to be parallel, synchronizing to the microgrid system.

One of the ultimate goals of both Ageto and DEIF was to simplify the Center’s renewable energy system to allow non-technical people to utilize, monitor and manage the building’s power without much outside support. “This is a user-friendly control system,” Murray says.

“We were privileged to work with Ageto and DEIF,” Riebel says. “Their customer service was just superb, and they went above and beyond. Their biggest goal was to make sure our building was efficient and successful, and they were always there, on call. I recommend talking to Ageto and DEIF -- they are true partners and really provide an ease of insight, operations and stability. There really aren’t any other partners we would use.”

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