SB Buzz Podcast: Fronius’ Dan Fortson on the future of inverters, how he’d fix energy policy

solar builder buzz podcast

Dan Fortson, applications engineer for Fronius USA, is a lifer in the solar energy – starting back in the wild west days of the ‘80s, learning from the early off-grid PV pioneers to now working for one of the top inverter brands in the industry. He has seen a lot over the years, and he’s not opposed to giving a few hot takes about solar and its place in the world. So, he made for a fascinating podcast guest. Our chat ranges from the technology most exciting him today to what he would do if he could change the energy industry right now. Click to listen, download and/or SUBSCRIBE below.

1 min. We start by discussing Dan’s start in solar — which dates back to his interest learning about energy in junior high science classes: “There’s something dreadfully wrong here.” I say “kind of” too many times.

2:30: What his first PV installation looked like and who is early mentors in the solar industry were.

4:20: Hilarious coincidence about what Dan alludes at this minute-mark.

6:00: What’s been most surprising to him about what’s possible today compared to the systems he was building in the early days – from racking fabrication to inverter technology to batteries — and how batteries can be like animals.

9:00: The effect the SunSpec Alliance standards are going to have on PV technology and system architecture going forward. Hot take #1: Why we might be a little too concerned with safety.

13:30: I struggle to come up with the words to explain the new testing for arc faults, which I wrote about in this article here.

15:30: Hot take #2: How utilities are overstating the issue of grid power quality.

18:10: How Dan would change the energy industry for the better. “Every form of energy is subsidized … We don’t fight wars over sunshine; we fight wars over oil.”

21:30: We get into some of the inverter tech support headaches that Dan sees in the field, and then he offers some advice for avoiding some of the most common installation errors he sees.

24:30: We end discussing some of the new initiatives and products that you can expect to see from Fronius heading into 2018. Be sure to take a look at their brand new website and check out this vision they have for the solar industry by 2020.

— Solar Builder magazine

SB Buzz Podcast: SunLink VP on tech, data, diversity and the path forward for solar

SunLink data podcast

We sat down, with mimosas in hand at 9 a.m. on the last day of Solar Power International, with Kate Trono, VP of Products for SunLink, for an in-depth discussion on the role that data and technology will play in the future of solar and (hopefully) the grid. At some point, I also nerd it up and mention my current favorite Sci-Fi comic series.

Listen below (and be sure to subscribe!)

What to listen for

After the intro and early rambling, we dig into what Kate and SunLink are most excited to be working on right now. “From what we’ve learned from how to take our [tracker] data and how to make sense out of it, we push out more intelligence – kind of that same thing we do in product management, and we think the other technology companies could do something similar with their data, where they make it more actionable, rather than just a data feed.” The goal being more transparent data across the industry.

At the 11:30 mark, Kate shares some cool ideas on better incentivizing reliability and performance in solar. “The way solar projects are financed … there’s other things solar could do rather than just hit an agreed to energy amount … grid services that are recognized by the utility.”

At the 15-minute mark, we burrow into Kate’s imagination and see her vision of the ideal energy world and solar’s role in it. This obviously leads us into a chat about video games and the Sci-Fi we are into these days.

This SPI there was also a big focus on diversity, and we wanted to get Kate’s perspective not just as a woman in solar, but in the tech/engineering world of solar, which is one of the most white male-dominated fields. That discussion starts at the 18-minute mark.

At the 21-minute mark, I explain my fears about our technology future, and Kate tries to calm me down.

Finally, around 24 minutes, Kate tells us what she found that was new and cool at this year’s SPI.

— Solar Builder magazine