We shift you not: A ground-mount solar system without piles

nuance energy

On the Osprey platform, load anchors are sent into the earth and pull tested in real-time conditions.

At Intersolar North America 2017, we caught wind of a new fixed tilt ground-mount system developed by Nuance Energy, but at the booth there was no physical system on display. Instead, Founder and CEO Brian C. Boguess handed me VR goggles to look through, which now feels appropriate because it was a glimpse into the future of modular ground-mount solar.

Nuance isn’t trying to play in the cut-throat utility-scale space, where an extra half penny per watt will cause a riot. Instead, the Nuance approach is about nimbly deploying smaller systems much quicker and to the benefit of small- to mid-size contractors and EPCs, increasing their revenue by enabling them to sell more solar quicker and cultivating a more robust, widespread solar industry.

“Where do you find savings? Always in the downstream,” Boguess says. “The upstream value chain has been beating itself up over technology to drive price down but no one paid attention to the downstream value chain.”

It all starts here: Nuance’s Osprey PowerPlatform is a ground-mount system that doesn’t require piles but is strong enough to withstand any load. Instead of piles and foundations, this new system borrows from the super old concept of anchors (5 in.) and cables (stainless steel, 60-in. long) that has been mounting utility poles and holding up retainer walls for a century. Those load anchors are sent into the earth and pull tested in real-time conditions (Nuance requires 1.5 times the worst case scenario for its design load test) and attached to the racking — a unit of four to six adjustable legs that is fully assembled with PV and wiring at ground-level. And yes, this means the entire system, if needed, can be disengaged and moved. We’ll explore those implications at the end.

With that as our starting point, grab a paddle and let’s head downstream.

Good bye geotech

Geotechnical reports are often done months in advance of the installation so a structural engineer can design the ground-mount system per the requirements of the geotech report. All in, this is a couple thousand dollars and a six- to eight-week process. What if you wanted to perform a geotech investigation in the fall? You might not even get the calculations back until the New Year, at a time when delays are equal to death.

As mentioned, the Osprey’s anchors are pull tested on site with a safety factor of 1.5 the worst case design load. This real-time condition test gives engineers the best knowledge of the soil at that time, eliminating the need for the geotech report ordering, process and price. That is just the start of how using the Osprey saves EPCs time and money.

Nuance Energy

Master of your domain

Larger projects are often the realm of larger companies or require a smaller company to rent equipment and wait for a larger company to deliver it. This is a perfectly fine system, but removing piles and removing the large equipment needed to drive them opens up the market even more for a wider variety of contractors, defragmenting the market.

“The small guy gets beat up over concrete and relying on outsourced teams to drive the product in the ground with heavy equipment they rent or lease, which means the equipment is on that company’s time, not the EPC’s,” Boguess says.

Even in the most efficient outcome from order placement to equipment delivery to pile driving, the mere fact of being on another company’s timeline adds extra time to project development and introduces the possibility of delays. The possibility of the delay has its own subtle chilling effect on a contractor’s project pipeline. If a larger project is delayed because equipment is held up at another site, the contractor’s delicate summer and fall project window will be shattered and accounts payable left in the lurch. A system that is fully installed by the contractor using only hand tools gives full control of scheduling back to the contractor.

“If you can’t control your installation schedule, you can’t control your revenues and accounts receivables,” Boguess says. “For small- to mid-size EPCs, a lot of these guys live project to project. If they can’t control cash flow, they are stuck.”

Obviously a larger company working to please investors with timely commissioning and quicker returns on investment would also benefit from the extra control over scheduling, but the savings go deeper, both in actual cost savings and costs avoided. Large developers have slush funds available to cover for unforeseen obstacles under the ground. For example, a developer putting a project in the ground in Florida has to account for the threat of running into limestone — both accidentally cracking it and then working to avoid it if found. Those threats don’t change the installation of an anchor system, which can go in the ground at any angle and avoid any such obstacles, keeping slush funds put and improving profit margins.

Nuance Energy procures its steel from both U.S. and foreign suppliers. This has not affected its model of packaging Osprey units at its regional warehouses and shipping them out with up to 40 units on a truck. Freight costs can be reduced by up to 60 percent.

RELATED: Solar carport developers find low-cost opportunity despite the tariffs

Labor savings

An all-handtool installation for a 5-MW project might sound laborious, but Boguess has compelling evidence of overall labor savings achieved, in less time, with the Osprey vs. a conventional large-scale ground-mount installation.

“One of our first projects with Brad Thomas, senior director of project management [formerly of NEXTracker], was only a 75-kW job. He had forecast three weeks for the installation. The job was finished in five days. He had overcalculated by two weeks, saving $14,000. That’s 18.6 cents a watt on a 75-kW job.”

With minimal training, any local labor crew can be employed to install the Osprey system. The adjustable legs also reduce the amount of site prep and grading needed.

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New market: Lift and Shift

The niche for Nuance thus far has been projects in the 10 kW to 5 MW range, but applications within that range extend beyond the conventional. For starters, Boguess has seen a lot of activity in rural residential and small agriculture in the Midwest, less sexy solar locations like Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.

“The smaller customer is anybody ordering one to 10 units from us, and each unit holds 5 to 6 kW,” Boguess says. “Residential contractors have a cash flow business with three to four install teams out on roofs, and initially they are afraid to take on 20-kW ground-mounts because they think it means taking two crews off a roof. But we can keep them on the roof and get 20 kW installed in four hours.”

Boguess even believes they’ve created a completely new (and catchy!) application category for solar called “Lift and Shift,” born from the fact that the Osprey anchors can be disengaged and the complete PV system above ground can be literally lifted as is and shifted to another location. This opens up totally new areas for PV, such as temporary farm land and mining.

“We had the idea of financing modular ground-mount systems with a PPA in the mining industry,” Boguess says. “This is unheard of because how will you finance a mobile microgrid hybrid solution when you want to move the asset every two years? We enable mining operations or those EPCs in this space to mitigate that risk because when that dig doesn’t find what they want after two or three years, they can lift and shift to redeploy the asset, not leaving it stranded. A stranded asset is what is holding up PPAs.”

Underneath power lines is also a brave new world that’s now possible in California. Just recently Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) awarded Nuance Energy 40 50-kWac systems to be installed using the Osprey PowerPlatform.

“Our strategy for keeping costs low is to deploy solar arrays along existing transmission lines, where we already have rights of way, and to handle the installations entirely ourselves with our own crews,” says Francisco Fernandez, the lead electrical engineer in LADWP’s Solar Power Engineering Department. This strategy imposed two special requirements: easy removal when necessary to affect repairs or upgrades to the overhead transmission lines and ease of installation by small crews. “The solution from Nuance Energy met these two requirements.”

With LADWP’s system providing more than 26 million MHh of electricity annually to 1.5 million residential and business customers in the city of Los Angeles’ 472 square miles, the potential for solar energy deployments is substantial.

Added together, the Nuance Energy value proposition is a compelling one, offering several new opportunities for a wide variety of solar contractors and EPCs to grow and solidify their business.

— Solar Builder magazine

Four energy dense solar mounting systems for C&I rooftops

SunModo SunBeam

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As a permanent part of the building and roof structure, the SunBeam system eliminates any abrasions, moss build up and need of system removal for roof repair or re-roofing. In addition, it provides shading of HVAC equipment, increasing efficiency and faster temperature response. Twenty-year warranty.

Material: High-grade aluminum and 304 stainless steel hardware. Anchor-only attachment.

How it maximizes energy density: The SunBeam system elevates above obstructions such as HVAC, pipes and vents. By spanning over roof obstructions such as HVAC, pipes and vents, the system takes full advantage of the available roof surface thereby maximizing the PV system size. The system can be easily adjusted to account for the multiple roof pitches on site.

Everest Solar D Dome R²

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The D Dome R² system is an east/west commercial flat roof solution. The third generation of this product is now rail-less with only five major components and minimal hardware. It sits at a fixed 10-degree pitch and allows for 3.5-in. inter-row spacing. Twenty-year warranty.

Material: Aluminum, ballast with attachment optional. The ballast blocks sit under the panels.

How it maximizes energy density: Everest Solar Systems believes east/west systems are more efficient south of the tropic of cancer. First, an east/west system practically eliminates inter-row spacing which allows more modules on the roof, thus increasing module density. On one internal study, Everest compared a the production of a 10-degree south-facing system with its east/west system in southern California at different azimuths. The south-facing fit 88 modules and had a 14 percent decrease in at the 225-degree azimuth. The D Dome R² system reached 108 modules in the same space and had less than 0.1 percent change between all azimuth angles.

Solar Mounting Solutions

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SMS Racking consists of only three major parts that arrive with all hardware pre-inserted allowing for quick single tool installation. The THRU-ITT integrated wire management system allows wiring to remain organized and protected by running wires east-west and north-south internally. Since this racking design does not rely on the panel for integrity, installers can complete racking and wire installation independent of the panel. Twenty-year warranty.

Material: G90 coated steel and optional galvanized steel, aluminum, powder-coated. Ballast only.

How it maximizes energy density: SMS developed an Excel spreadsheet that determines the optimum row-to-row spacing based on the selected solar module, optimum tilt angle, solar azimuth angle, and the altitude angle all specific to install location. By optimizing the length of row-to-row spacers, the SMS system can greatly reduce the amount of redundant material, which in turn will reduce racking cost and avoid installing the modules in a high shadow region. The racks are designed with minimal distance between modules in the east/west direction to eliminate unused area.

Ecolibrium EcoFoot5D and EcoFoot2+

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EcoFoot5D 5-Degree and EcoFoot2+ 10-Degree speed installation and simplify logistics for flat-roof installs. Main components are: a base, pre-assembled clamps (integrated bonding without washers) and a wind deflector. The system is black, ASA-PC, UL Listed Resin with a 25-year warranty mounted with ballast, attachments or a mix.

How it maximizes energy density: EcoFoot5D 5-Degree delivers 18.4 percent more power than the 10-degree system and lowers cost per watt. The system maximizes roof density while maintaining the ease and simplicity of EcoFoot. The modular base is small at 7 in. x 16.7 in., and inter-row spacing is a dense 9.9 in., creating a tightly packed array. Stackable bases enable up to 290 kW per pallet, resulting in fewer pallets and minimized shipping, storage and onsite crane use.

— Solar Builder magazine

Degrees of Separation: How to mount commercial rooftop PV systems to maximize energy

Ecolibrium EcoFoot system

Ecolibrium EcoFoot system

On commercial rooftops, design trends are all about maximizing energy density. Module selection is a huge factor there, but so are the layout and tilt decisions — figuring out the perfect shape and tilt to mount as many modules as possible without compromising their performance.

Pairing the right racking system with a flat-roof space opens up a world of possible equations. Use a racking system that will position the panels to maximize the energy output, which includes the tilt angle, inter-row spacing and the direction the panels will face. As always, geography matters. For one, the roof’s azimuth, or the direction the pitch faces. For a perfect south-facing system, the azimuth should be 180.

But new systems are tweaking the traditional. East/west systems are becoming popular below the tropic of cancer. Designers are playing more with tilt angles, with the general trend moving toward 5-degree tilt — likely to reduce inter-row shading without compromising the number of modules used or resulting in too much soiling.

“Rooftop energy density is maximized by fitting more panels on the roof using a 5-degree racking system,” said Jonah Coles, product solutions manager, Ecolibrium Solar. “The key to fitting more panels on the roof is to use racking with a small footprint and narrow inter-row spacing. The combination packs in panels, yet the inter-row spacing is wide enough to allow for the working room needed for ease of installation and post-installation maintenance.”

RELATED: Why energy density matters — and three ways to maximize it

But the tilt decision isn’t one-size-fits all. Everest Solar Systems notes tilt angle efficiency correlates to latitude — the higher the latitude often requires a higher tilt. The latitude in Hawaii, for instance, allows a system to be virtually flat, but there needs to be enough tilt to keep the rain from pooling and to keep dust off the modules. Brandon Gwinner, regional sales manager, SunModo, puts that minimum at a 4-degree tilt.

SunModo Sunbeam

“The tilt degree is dependent on the region/location and optimum output based on TSRF,” he says. “The minimal tilt degree racking systems are typically to maximize the number of modules you can get on a roof without your rear post being 8 ft off the roof and to get the most energy density/power density per the project.”

There are also some wind/snow load considerations that can keep tilt below a certain height/tilt degree, as well as parapet walls and billowing of wind. The installer has to find the balance between production and engineering capabilities.

Also, installers looking to maximize production in summer months should consider using lower tilt angles than installers looking to maximize production in winter months. In snowy northern climates, Everest Solar recommends a 10-degree system tilt angle, which is better for shedding snow, plus the wider inter-row spacing allows more room for snow to land without piling up and casting a shadow or covering the modules.

“If you can hit your power goal with a 10-degree system, then 10-degree would be the system of choice. If not, 5-degree racking can enable a successful system when 10-degree wouldn’t fit enough panels to generate enough power,” Coles said.

Commercial installations have significantly more requirements than residential installations, so understanding jurisdictional requirements at the onset of the project will make the process go smoothly. Some states, like Oregon, do not require extra engineering when the tilt is under 18 in. on the back edge of the array, based on a prescriptive path. So, cost analysis vs. ease of permitting is a factor for tilt decisions too.

The inter-row spacing issue

Tilted PV panels cast shadows on the rows of modules behind them, necessitating a gap between rows to minimize the effects of production loss due to shadows cast on panels in anterior module rows. Here are a few ideas to mitigate the impact of this phenomenon on your PV installation via Peter Abou Chacra, engineering consultant, SunModo.

  • Reduce the tilt of your south-facing array. For peak energy production on a per-module basis, PV modules have an ideal incident angle with solar rays emanating from the sun. For some installations, however, it may make sense to reduce the tilt of the modules to a less optimal incident angle. Though this means less production on a per module-basis, it can mean a significant increase in the daily unshaded collection time for the array. This gain in effective collection time can offset the losses caused by a sub-optimal tilt for the module itself. Using software dedicated to modeling and analyzing a system’s performance at a different tilt angle and inter-row spacing should figure out the best path.
  • Locate your system on a south-facing slope. Even a five-degree inclination can have a marked impact on the amount of inter-row spacing required. This can significantly increase the number of modules you can fit in a given area.
  • Consider 3-in-landscape or 4-in-landscape monoslope installations. Coupled with a low tilt, this strategy can reduce inter-row spacing significantly on a given installation since modules on the same structure and slope don’t require significant spacing between them. This can be particularly effective if you can gradually elevate the anterior monoslope PV structures as you work your way north through the site.

— Solar Builder magazine

Install Inequality: Nearly half of U.S. residential rooftop solar potential is currently out of reach

poor apartment buidlings

One of the largest barriers to solar adoption on a wide scale is the wealth gap, and it will require more problem-solving than a mandate to overcome it. A new report released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that nearly half (42 percent) of all the United States’ residential rooftop solar technical potential (see pg. 15 for definition) is on the dwellings of low-to-moderate income (LMI) households, representing 330 GW of potential solar capacity — a number the researchers admitted was much higher than they expected at the outset.

“Understanding the potential size of the LMI market in detail offers new insights and opportunities to serve these communities,” said David Mooney, executive director, Institutional Planning, Integration and Development for NREL. “The potential electric bill savings from the adoption of rooftop solar would have a greater material impact on low-income households compared to their high-income counterparts.”

Although residential solar adoption has increased over the past decade, adoption among LMI households (defined as 80 percent or less of the Area Median Income) and affordable housing providers continues to lag.

The obvious issue here is the lack of capital, cash or credit for such an investment among LMI customers, but the NREL report also shows how solar financing strategies and the long-time inability to penetrate the multifamily sector specifically leaves behind the LMI segment.

Segment spotlight

Across the entire U.S., all income levels mushed together, the rooftop potential of residential single-family is much higher than multifamily — 68 percent versus 32 percent — but the high-income category is doing the heavy lifting to get that outcome. Splitting this chunk another way, into owner-occupied and renter-occupied, reveals where the LMI segment diverges from higher income categories. After doing this, the largest modality of potential is single-family owner-occupied (SFOO) at 177 TWh, but is closely followed by multifamily renter-occupied, with 140 TWh of potential.

Said another way, although deployment of rooftop has been concentrated on SFOO, about 60 percent of potential is in the other three combinations. This means over half of LMI technical potential for solar is in underrepresented housing combinations, like single-family renter-occupied and multifamily buildings, which means the barriers of solar deployment in these categories is really an additional a barrier for an LMI individual’s access to solar.

The study shows the quantity of residential technical potential is highly concentrated in urban and densely populated areas with more building stock, which makes sense intuitively. But many of these areas with high levels of potential already have significant levels of residential deployment, like California, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Several states cited to have high potential with low levels of deployment were Illinois, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas.

RELATED: Solar for All: How to incentivize community solar projects to benefit low-, middle-income customers

At a high level, patterns of LMI potential mirror overall income trends. LMI solar potential percentages are greatest in the lower income communities and higher in rural counties. Spatial trends in the potential for solar to offset LMI consumption most strongly reflected regional variation in per-capita electricity consumed, primarily due to which fuels are used for building heating and cooling loads.

Impact on the future

The Solar Energy Technology Office of the U.S. Department of Energy updated the cost targets of 5 cents per KWh for residential solar by 2030. Using these costs and making forecasts, NREL estimated that achieving them would result in 970 GW of PV capacity 2050, or 33 percent of the generation mix. But can we hit that target leaving the LMI solar rooftop segment in the dust?

Using this data set, NREL examined the feasibility of rooftop offsetting that much in each county in the United States given the technical potential.

Offsetting 33 percent of LMI household electrical consumption (“offset target”) with rooftop solar is technically feasible on a national scale when only considering households in SFOO buildings, although to do so requires buildout on essentially all SFOO buildings — an impractical and unforgiving market challenge. In contrast, on a technical basis, there is more than sufficient roof space to meet the 33 percent offset target when including single-family rental-occupied (SFRO), multifamily owner-occupied (MFOO), and multifamily renter-occupied (MFRO) buildings.

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Using only the popular SFOO segment, 60 percent of counties would have potential to meet 33 percent of LMI electricity consumption. Said in reverse to belabor the point: 40 percent of U.S. counties have insufficient rooftop potential to offset 33 percent of LMI electric consumption in just single-family, owner-occupied. The current path to 2050 will not achieve the target generational mix. But including rental and multifamily there is “more than sufficient rooftop space to meet the 33 percent target.” NREL believes 99 percent of counties would meet the 33 percent threshold in just residential rooftop capacity.

Reaching this potential requires deployment models other than those commonly found today. Such models would need to ensure the rental owner had incentive to install solar on their own buildings, like bundling utility expenses with rent payment as a means of passing the costs and savings along to tenants. These models would also need to address diverging requirements and energy burdens of owners and tenants in multifamily. Here’s a great example of one new concept in our Attack the Tariff Series.

It takes a village

The NREL study shows that most LMI electricity consumption (especially with the LMI segment requiring a lower threshold to offset onsite) can be met with rooftop solar, but again 100 percent deployment is unlikely. To get to these high levels of penetration would require deployment on non-traditional building types.

NREL posits one way to increase LMI access to solar is through the vast network of nonprofits that connect to this segment. What if PV systems on government buildings, public housing, schools, shelters and places of worship were intentionally oversized to benefit their LMI communities with the excess generation? The NREL team estimated this opportunity for three cities — Chicago, San Bernardino-Riverside and Washington, D.C. — based on building size, average electric consumption and solar technical potential for outsizing each of those buildings segments. They found enough gross generation potential on those selected building types to meet between 10 to 30 percent of LMI consumption, but only about 1.5 to 9 percent after accounting for the onsite consumption.

Schools have the greatest opportunity to export to the community because of their typically large flat roofs and lower levels of electrical consumption in the summer when irradiance is highest. Places of worship came next because of low levels of consumption year round and moderately favorable roofs. Public housing sites and homeless shelters likely have insufficient rooftop areas to offset 100 percent on site consumption.

National nonprofits GRID Alternatives and Vote Solar updated their Low-Income Solar Policy Guide which explains some proven strategies for expanding solar access being used in states and cities across the country. In multifamily, for example, successful strategies include:

  • Net metering or other incentives to ensure full value of solar
  • Financial incentives to reduce upfront costs, overcome split incentives scenarios and ensure benefits reach tenants
  • Measures to reduce barriers to financing
  • Technical assistance to affordable housing providers, participating contractors and service providers
  • Pairing solar with energy efficiency programs
  • Facilitating waivers from regulatory utility and rent allowance requirements to maximize tenant benefit. (Under a utility allowance formula, a resident’s rent plus utilities equate to a certain percentage of the resident’s income. When a resident’s utility bills decrease, as can happen with solar, the rent portion will automatically increase under the formula)
  • Integrating job training and employment opportunities in the solar energy and energy efficiency sectors of the economy

California and Washington D.C. are the only examples of active programs in place specifically targeted to deploying solar for multifamily affordable housing. California has an incentive program dedicated to affordable housing multifamily, with requirement that half of energy generated on site be used to serve tenants loads. Other states have included incentives for multifamily solar adoption in their broader solar programs. In Colorado, the Denver Housing Authority’s 2-MW LMI solar garden model has shown a scalable model through utility partnerships for offsite generation. In Massachusetts, the SREC II program has awarded a higher price for solar renewable energy credits that are generated by projects that are considered community shared solar projects or that serve affordable housing. When the SREC II program ends, it will be replaced by the new Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program that will award a higher incentive for solar projects that serve affordable housing.

Final thought

It is a big opportunity, though there are clear market and economic barriers. Ignoring this segment and these potential barriers could significantly limit the long-term size of the rooftop solar market.

“Solar can have tremendous benefits for low-income communities in addition to diversifying and de-carbonizing our national energy mix,” said Tim Sears, chief operating officer for GRID Alternatives. “We hope this research will give more states the data they need to develop effective low-income solar programs and build a more equitable clean energy economy.”

The report is accompanied by a web application (maps.nrel.gov/solarforall) that enables users to assess solar technical potential for their communities. This tool makes it possible to visualize the amount of low-income solar potential in a specific neighborhood, for example, while also enabling identification of neighborhoods with both high solar potential and high electricity costs where rooftop solar could provide cost-effective electricity generation. Check it out and see if it sparks any new ideas. The potential is there, it just needs to be tapped.


Methodology

Using LIDAR data from Homeland Security to examine 23 percent of U.S. building stock, the researchers inferred the solar potential of building footprints and unshaded roof area, azimuth, tilt and roof plane. Age cannot be detected so was not considered. This was then matched with socio-economic demographic data from the Census and building stock data to understand total usable rooftop area for LMI households. A statistical model was then created to make estimates of areas not covered by the available LIDAR data (stuff like household counts, number of suitable buildings, etc.) They then dove into three representative regions to infer more in-depth information.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar + Sharing: Connect groups of homeowners, renters via one solar + storage network

lithium-ion batteries

The EnSync Home Energy System includes high-efficiency “LFP” lithium-ion batteries, a Matrix Energy Management system with 9-kWac output capacity, modular energy storage capacity of 9-kWh increments, modular DC-DC converters and the DER Flex Internet of Energy control platform.

Brad Hansen, president and CEO of EnSync Energy Systems, believes solar + storage for the home is still “in the dark ages.” EnSync Energy Systems has built a reputation for deploying high-value distributed energy resources (DERs) in the C&I segment. So why is Hansen discussing residential solar + storage? Well, EnSync has just launched a Home Energy System that will not only address some of the antiquated architecture of current home storage systems but also invent an entirely new project design concept.

At the basic level, the EnSync Home Energy System combines solar, energy storage, power electronics and Internet of Energy control into one platform. It has the advantage of leveraging technology and lessons learned from EnSync’s C&I business to achieve an outcome like lessening thermal stability concerns of repackaged lithium-ion batteries that are often used in a home energy storage applications. Instead, EnSync pairs a residential-scale version of its modular Matrix Energy Management system with thermally resilient lithium-ion batteries and its DER Flex Internet of Energy solution that are all designed to work together.

“Most [current systems] are significantly underpowered and cannot support the entire home if the grid electricity is out, or they have issues disconnecting and reconnecting to the grid during an outage,” Hansen says. “If the home is off-grid, many cannot reliably perform if high inrush currents are created by the start-up of appliances like refrigerators or air conditioners.”

Peer-to-peer exchange

This is the part that could change the sector. The EnSync Home Energy System introduces True Peer-to-Peer energy exchange technology. The goal here is to enable individual residential units in a property to be linked into a network behind the utility meter to provide highly efficient, direct energy exchange between units. Suddenly property developers, property managers and homeowners’ associations can provide seamless and economical transfer of excess energy from any given residence to any other residence in the network with excess demand via EnSync’s DC-Link.

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“The future of the electricity market will be individual homes and building owners operating in a ‘spot market’ for the buying and selling of electricity across a network,” Hansen says. “At EnSync, our mission for the company is simple: the democratization of energy through innovative and economic energy systems. Homeowners and property owners that install our products today do so with the confidence that as the market for energy continues to be radically changed, they are not only prepared for it, but can capitalize on it and profit from it.”

A single residence, multifamily building or entire neighborhood could reduce consumption on the grid and possibly open up a new revenue stream. The sharing of electricity between interconnected residences on a True Peer-to-Peer energy exchange network prioritizes the use of solar generated or stored electricity ahead of that from the utility grid for any residence in the network. The network can also be configured as “non-export,” meaning no excess generation for any unit goes back to the utility grid. This capability is becoming more critical as several states and jurisdictions prohibit or economically penalize energy export.

Additionally, many utilities are in the early stages of implementing time-of-day electricity rates and are already levying punitive demand charges on customers. The evolving rate structures and impact of resident vacancy rates, vacation schedules and time-of-day load profiles frequently make deploying solar generation uneconomical for large portions of property development. Virtual net-metering and virtual peer-to-peer programs are fraught with excessive complexity and administrative overhead.

EnSync will initially target the multi-residential property market for its solution, and then broaden its market presence. At the time of launch, the company had already built a sizable order backlog for the EnSync Home Energy System. The Michaels Development Co. was the first to sign a 20-year PPA to build a solar and energy storage system at the Keahumoa Place affordable housing development, a greenfield project in Hawaii that is expected to complete construction in 2019. Savings from the PPA will finance the construction of a 750-kW PV panel-covered canopy that will simultaneously produce energy and shade the development’s parking lot, as well as a 500-kW hour energy storage system, with individual modules interconnected by the proprietary True Peer-to-Peer DC-Link behind each unit’s utility meter.

“True Peer-to-Peer revolutionizes the economics of solar + storage in residential properties like Keahumoa, by dramatically reducing the negative impacts of vacancy rates, absence during peak generation times, vacation schedules and micro-loading effects within each unit from appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners,” Hansen says.

— Solar Builder magazine