Delivering Clean Energy Begins with Sustainable Infrastructure at sonnen

HPE Compute

As energy prices soar, households are looking for ways to lower expenses and go green. One way to do this is by reducing their reliance on the grid by producing and storing their own electricity.

Founded in 2010 by Christoph Ostermann and Torsten Stiefenhofer, sonnen has been doing this for a decade and has grown into an international company with 1,200 employees and operations in Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Australia, Spain, and the United States. In 2019, sonnen joined Shell and is now part of the Renewables and Energy Solutions. Our technology empowers households to switch to green, affordable energy. Using our smart storage systems, homes can store electricity generated by solar panels for later consumption, significantly reducing their reliance on traditional power sources.

Our households can choose to connect digitally. As part of the sonnenCommunity, people can participate in energy-sharing. If a household has more energy than it needs, they can store it or share with other households in the sonnenCommunity.

We can also virtually connect our storage systems, creating one huge virtual battery. In 2018, we launched sonnenVPP (Virtual Power Plant), a software platform connecting multiple homes using intelligent solar storage systems from sonnen to form a flexible buffer for the grid that can be used by the grid operators. Our software can manage demand, load, frequency, and resiliency. It allows households to generate revenues and savings from grid services, protects residents from power outages, supports the transition to clean, renewable energy, and reduces CO2 emissions. The sonnenVPP already operates in Germany, Italy, Australia, and the United States.  

A Sustainable Company Needs Sustainable Infrastructure

Sustainability is one of sonnen’s core values, and it informs our actions, products, and operations. We produce products that enable our customers to live more sustainably, but that’s not enough. It's important for us to operate with a certain level of sustainability as well, and our customers expect it. We are always thinking about what steps we can take as individuals and as a company to reduce CO2 emissions. 

Whenever we can, we opt for sustainable goods and services, and that includes our IT infrastructure. We consider the environmental impact of our infrastructure from the moment we purchase it to when we decommission it. And that's why we want to work with a provider who can offer us devices that achieve our technology goals while delivering on our sustainable promise.

We have a long-term relationship with HPE. Our previous data center and branch office infrastructure was based on HPE on-prem servers and HPE Aruba switches. When it came time to refresh our servers, HPE offered the perfect fit for us: We chose HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen 10 servers as the foundation of our new hybrid cloud infrastructure. However, instead of buying new ones, we decided to buy remanufactured servers through HPE Renew

One of the best ways to reduce e-waste is to purchase remanufactured equipment.

HPE Renew strikes the perfect balance between power, price, and sustainability. We update our equipment every five years, and one of the best ways to reduce e-waste is to purchase remanufactured equipment that has already seen some use. HPE Renew does not sell refurbished equipment that has seen a lot of use; instead they source products from customer returns, factory loaner equipment, products from the HPE demo pool, factory excess, and trial units that are restored to as-new condition and offered with a full same-as-new HPE warranty. We obtain current technology at a lower price, receive unparalleled HPE support, and prevent equipment from going to landfills. It’s a winning combination for sonnen and the environment.  

Advance planning is always important, but it’s even more important when relying on remanufactured equipment. You can’t always buy everything you want at the moment you want it. For example, if we were to build a new production environment requiring 20 switches, we would have to place an order months in advance to ensure that HPE could supply us with enough remanufactured equipment to meet our needs. If we didn’t think ahead, we’d have to buy a combination of new and remanufactured equipment, which isn’t as cost-effective, and prevents us from achieving our high-sustainability goals. 

Staying one step ahead of our needs is great for our business and, in this case, for the environment. HPE ProLiant is not only prominent in our data center, but it is also helping us accelerate our clean energy goals. 

Standardizing Infrastructure Across International Locations

Even though sonnen is an international company with locations in many countries, our needs are modest. We have grown quickly, and we wanted to introduce the same standard in each new location so that we didn't have a mix of vendors and hardware in different offices. 

Our primary data center comprises two HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen 10 servers connected to external storage arrays. Each of our bigger offices runs a cluster of two servers: a primary server mirrored to a disaster recovery server that takes over in the event of a failure. Our smaller locations—those with 20 to 50 users—don’t have an onsite technician and run virtual machines using the servers at our primary data center.

Standardizing on HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen 10 servers and interconnecting our offices allows us to weather storms. Every server has a local interface that physically connects to our hardware, increasing transparency and allowing us to perform onsite diagnostics. All our switches are also connected to an Aruba central HPE console for remote configuration, diagnostics and firmware upgrades. 

When every company office uses identical hardware, there’s a continuity of IT knowledge and service.

Because every office uses identical hardware, we also have continuity of knowledge and service. For example, if a member of our IT team leaves, a colleague from another office can provide support until we hire and train a replacement. If somebody changes location, we don’t have to retrain them because they’re using the same equipment. 

Going with lower-cost HPE Renew hardware also means we have extra funds to transition more of our infrastructure to the cloud in future upgrades. To reduce latency between our German data center and Australian offices, we are moving our most important business applications from bare-metal servers to the cloud. 

Walking and Cycling the Talk

Purchasing remanufactured IT infrastructure through HPE Renew is a big part of how we at sonnen reduce our environmental impact and carbon footprint. HPE ProLiant is prominent in our data center and also helps us accelerate our clean energy goals. We save resources by choosing already used material in comparison to new material, which aligns with our strategy for sustainability.

And that's only part of the picture. For example, we encourage employees to walk or cycle to work and subsidize bicycle rentals and purchases to make it easier to leave cars at home. Our products and actions demonstrate our commitment to a green future, and we hope to continue to innovate and further reduce our CO2 levels in the years and decades to come.

In the United States, we partnered with an innovative developer, the Wasatch Group, and Rocky Mountain Power, the largest utility in Utah, to implement a virtual power plant at the Soleil Lofts community. The project includes a virtual power plant that integrates sonnen’s VPP software with the utility’s grid management system. This all-electric community of 650 apartments uses solar panels and sonnen smart battery systems to capture and store energy that benefits tenants and the local grid. This combination offers residents an energy-efficient way of life and protection against blackouts due to aging energy infrastructure. The innovative development enables Rocky Mountain Power to call on the battery fleet for specific grid services and is one of many communities around the world that have chosen sonnen’s smart storage systems and VPP to build sustainable futures.

As we continue to grow internationally, we hope to build more clean energy communities like Soleil Lofts and give people the tools to transition to safe, reliable, and renewable energy. Everyone at sonnen is proud to help our customers live better lives in greener homes, and HPE helps us power our business more transparently and efficiently so we can expand.