Sonnen to offer complete home automation, solar + storage system

sonnen home automation

The future of solar and energy storage will collide with the future of home automation and Sonnen is getting ahead of the game with the launch of energy automation with ecoLinx at Solar Power International this year (booth 3820). The all-in-one ecoLinx smart energy management system brings together home automation, residential solar, and energy storage in an energy ecosystem that enables intelligent load controllers to effectively manage and optimize energy usage, secure smart homes against grid outages and help stabilize the existing power grid.

One of the fundamental challenges in achieving renewable energy automation is the disconnect between a home automation system’s ability to intelligently manage energy usage and the lack of intelligent software needed to maintain connectivity and efficiency. sonnen’s ecoLinx energy storage system is the first of its kind to bridge this gap, proficiently demonstrating the use of smart, configurable backup power and intelligent home automation demand control – facilitated by energy storage and solar.

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Smart configurable backup power involves an energy storage system working in unison with intelligent circuit breakers to provide multiple backup power options in the event of an outage, eliminating the inflexible and expensive protected loads panel. Intelligent demand control – the coordination of solar, energy storage and intelligent load controllers throughout the home — is the other major innovation showcased by ecoLinx, a feature that has been rumored for years throughout the energy industry without any serious demonstration of a full system in action.

sonnen partnered with two leading home automation companies – PanTech Design, creators of the flexible ADAPT software platform, and Cinegration – to develop the ultra-smart, flexible, user-friendly control system architecture required to elevate leading home automation systems into the energy automation application. sonnen also collaborated with power management company Eaton to incorporate intelligent circuit breakers with cloud-based connectivity for efficient load-monitoring and remote communication.

In addition, the sonnen ecoLinx features a 15-year system warranty, and comes standard with the Fortelion battery module. Fortelion is the world-leading Lithium Ion Iron Phosphate cell. The all-in-one system is also scalable in size, from 10 kWh to 20 kWh of storage capacity and is sold exclusively through sonnen’s network of trusted partners and integrators.

RELATED: The Holistic Home: We peer into the future of home energy generation, usage

Energy automation with ecoLinx features

  • Smart, dynamic weather forecasting to alert homeowners before a potential power outage occurs to prompt them to create a backup plan. For example, a home’s Control4 system might assess an extreme weather forecast for the next few days and request that the home cease daily cycling of its battery into the home’s loads and instead, raise the backup power reservation on the sonnen ecoLinx to 100%, in preparation for a potential power outage.
  • Smart, configurable backup power that provides owners the option to select how long stored power will last in an outage. By incorporating actionable data from smart devices like Eaton’s intelligent circuit breakers, sonnen’s new energy automation software knows how much power each circuit requires to run devices and how much energy per hour each circuit will consume. The system also knows how much solar production is being generated and managed by the sonnen ecoLinx and how much stored energy remains in the battery. With this information, sonnen’s energy automation software applications are able to present homeowners with several backup plans to prioritize energy flow to devices based on need, ultimately securing homeowners against power outages and natural disasters.
  • Intelligent demand control and load shaping that automatically manages and maximizes the use of clean, stored energy to avoid peak utility rates and power the home in the cleanest and most efficient way possible without disrupting the homeowner. By integrating with smart devices within the home, such as Crestron thermostats and Lutron lighting systems, ecoLinx is capable of taking advantage of inexpensive and low carbon footprint off-peak hours to power devices as well as storing self-produced energy to be used during dirty and expensive peak periods, such as morning and evening hours.
  • Throughout the day, ecoLinx ensures that a home’s solar production is either self-consumed by the greater AC load or it charges the battery as a solar time shift for use later.

Here’s an example

California homeowners who drive an electric vehicle (EV) are able to enroll in PG&E’s EV time-of-use rate, including a significant swing from off-peak to peak power prices. The ecoLinx software is able to charge from the grid from 1 am – 4 am along with the EV, paying low off-peak rates for power that is abundant and considerably cleaner than during peak periods. Another load shift occurs when a Crestron thermostat automatically pre-cools the home during the relatively inexpensive and low carbon footprint, partial peak hours of 12 pm-3 pm, instead of trying to cool the home during peak times. Finally, during the high carbon footprint, expensive peak period of 5 pm-9 pm when the grid is stressed, smart devices in the home are activated to minimize energy usage while maintaining homeowner comfort – the Crestron thermostat bumps up a few degrees in the pre-cooled home while Lutron lighting dims slightly and Lutron shades lower to prevent the need for increased energy to power AC loads. Most importantly, the sonnen ecoLinx discharges its stored off-peak power and locally-generated stored sunlight, to meet the majority of the home’s load during this expensive, dirty peak time, rendering the home invisible to the grid, while saving money.

— Solar Builder magazine

Sunnova to start selling solar services in Illinois

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Sunnova Energy Corporation is expanding into Illinois’ burgeoning solar scene, offering solar leases right now and a loan product that will begin later this month.

“Thanks to a solar-friendly regulatory landscape, Illinoisans are now able to contract for greater energy savings and greater service through Sunnova’s 25-year Sunnova Protect warranty,”  said William J. (John) Berger, Chief Executive Officer of Sunnova Energy Corporation. “Recent changes in policy surrounding the Illinois Solar Renewable Credit (SREC) program have opened up generous incentives, allowing consumers to undercut local utility rates.”

With strong state incentives and rising utility prices, the company believes Illinois is primed for a solar energy boom as it continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to solar energy. In 2016, the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) laid out a plan to acquire 25 percent of Illinois’ energy from renewable sources by 2025—a requirement from the federal Future Energy Jobs Act. According to Wood Mackenzie, in 2017, Illinois ranked 33rd among states in solar growth but is expected to rise to number 13 in solar growth over the next five years.

— Solar Builder magazine

Duke Energy is seeing strong demand for its solar rebate deal in North Carolina (16 MW so far)

Duke Energy solar rebate

Home with solar panels on the roof. The house is located in Chatham County, N.C.

Duke Energy’s North Carolina solar rebate program has attracted significant interest from customers, with more than 1,500 applying for the incentive to install private solar systems in the first few weeks of the program’s launch.

The rebate offering, which opened July 9 to all Duke Energy customers in the state, is part of a five-year, $62 million program designed to support customers who want to install solar systems at their homes or businesses.
As a result of the popularity of the program, there is a waiting list for the residential and nonresidential categories for 2018 capacity.

Due to the first-come, first-served application rule of the program, the company is seeking permission from the N.C. Utilities Commission (NCUC) to allow residential and nonresidential customers who installed systems between Jan. 1, 2018, and July 26, 2018, another opportunity to apply for the rebate program in 2019. There is still capacity left for nonprofit customers this year.

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About 16 megawatts of new solar capacity has been accepted for rebates – totaling about $9 million. Overall, up to 20 MW of new capacity is expected to be added each year during the five-year program. At the start of 2018, Duke Energy had about 5,000 customers with private solar in North Carolina, with a total capacity of about 50 MW.
Information for the rebate program can be found at: duke-energy.com/home/products/renewable-energy/nc-solar-rebates.

Solar rebate program

Under the program, residential customers are eligible for a rebate of 60 cents per watt for solar energy systems 10 kilowatts (kW) or less. For example, a typical rooftop array of 8 kW is eligible for a $4,800 rebate. Installed systems 10 kW or greater are eligible for a maximum rebate of $6,000.

Nonresidential customers are eligible for 50 cents per watt. Nonprofit customers (such as churches and schools) are eligible for an enhanced rebate of 75 cents per watt for systems 100 kW or less.

The rebates are divided into maximum annual allotments of 20 MW and are on a first-come, first-served basis – depending on when the customer application is submitted.

— Solar Builder magazine

Remote site assessment cuts solar design time, costs (about $850 per install)

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There are some solar installation costs we can’t control, such as the tariffs imposed on the industry this year. But when it comes to cutting soft costs, which now comprise more than half of the cost of a solar installation, installers have a valuable tool in their tool kits: remote site assessment and design. NREL has estimated that solar design software that supports remote shading analysis can save installers $0.17/W per 5-kW system (~$850 per install).

Samuel Adeyemo and Christopher Hopper experienced directly how time-consuming and laborious solar design can be when they partnered on a commercial solar installation to power a school in Kenya in 2012. Installing the system took only a few weeks, but designing the system from across the world required months of planning. After talking to other solar installers, Adeyemo and Hopper realized time-intensive solar design processes were a common struggle.

With the goal of providing a more efficient way to design solar projects while maintaining precision and accuracy, they set about building Aurora Solar in 2013. Today, tools like Aurora’s solar design software are modernizing the design process and offering significant benefits to installers that utilize them.

Save time, effort and money

One of the most tangible benefits of using solar design software is the time and money saved from reduced truck rolls. Traditionally, site visits have been an important step in the solar design and sales process, as a starting point for installers to accurately assess the shading on the roof and determine the appropriate PV system size.

When you or your team have to spend hours driving to prospective customers’ homes and businesses, climbing on the roofs and taking manual measurements, it can be costly—especially during the pre-sale stage. However, with software that enables you to get a detailed understanding of the project site as well as the solar access and shading, you can drastically reduce the need for costly site visits.

Residential installer Solarponics experienced this benefit firsthand. After switching to Aurora for their solar designs, the company has been able to reduce their pre-sale site visits by 90 percent while doubling installations and keeping their closing rate constant.

Improve sales with faster proposal turnaround times

Streamlining your solar design process through remote site assessment also offers important sales benefits. Being able to quickly send an accurate design and quote for a customer, rather than waiting on a site visit, can make a significant difference in closing the sale.

Hans Frederickson, owner of Cascadia Solar, learned this when a company used remote site assessment to close a deal with one of his prospective customers while he was completing his onsite assessment. Soon after that experience, Cascadia Solar switched to remote site assessment and now can send customers a quote within an hour of talking with them on the phone, their solar sales have doubled month over month and more than doubled year over year.

Having a more efficient assessment and design process also makes it possible to pursue leads that might previously have been too costly. “It used to be that proposals were so time-consuming that I would focus on carefully qualifying each lead, but Aurora has allowed us to respond in a much more effective way to every solar lead we get,” says Frederickson.

Bankable accuracy

Of course, in order for remote site assessment to truly be valuable, your solar design, production and bill savings estimates must be accurate and precise to avoid change orders down the line. Thankfully, with the application of cutting edge technologies, remote solar design tools like Aurora offer accuracy that companies can be confident putting their name behind. NREL has validated the accuracy of both Aurora’s performance simulations and its remote shading analysis, which was found to be statistically equivalent to onsite measurements.

Rebate authorities around the country, such as CT Green Bank, NYSERDA, and the Energy Trust of Oregon, accept Aurora’s remote shade reports as an acceptable replacement for time-consuming and costly onsite inspections previously required when applying for rebates.

Data on change orders: Cost and prevalence

Aurora aims to give installers the tools to design and sell better solar, including reducing errors that lead to change orders. Recognizing that there is limited data on the prevalence and cost of change orders in the industry, Aurora surveyed solar professionals about the impact of change orders in a recent webinar. Download our data on change order cost and prevalence to see how your experience stacks up against others in the industry.

— Solar Builder magazine

Sunnova starts offering SunSafe solar, storage service across Massachusetts

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Sunnova Energy Corporation has begun offering its Sunnova SunSafe solar energy generation and home battery storage service through its network of partners to homeowners across Massachusetts. Sunnova offers a broad and comprehensive solar portfolio in Massachusetts and will now be offering Sunnova SunSafe complete with its 25-year warranty, performance guarantee and intelligent control, all with zero money down.

“What we see in Massachusetts is an opportunity to better serve the energy needs of homeowners with a smart, clean and resilient energy technology through our local network of installation partners,” said William J. (John) Berger, CEO of Sunnova Energy Corporation. “As storms increase in frequency and severity, Sunnova SunSafe™ allows homeowners to rest easy knowing that they’ll have power to energize their lives when the grid goes down.”

“After a 2018 winter season that left Massachusetts homeowners dealing with Nor’easters, Atlantic cyclones, flooding, freezing temperatures and frequent power outages, we’re glad to be offering Sunnova SunSafeTM to power our customers’ homes with solar power, day and night,” said Kris Hillstrand, Executive Vice President of Technology and Service Operations with Sunnova Energy Corporation. “Our solar + battery storage offering will provide homeowners in Massachusetts with the opportunity to draw stored solar energy from their battery to power electricity needs, protecting their families from outages or even high electricity rates to maximize savings.”

In case of a utility power outage, the Sunnova SunSafe automatically detects when to switch from solar energy to stored energy, and Sunnova SunSafe will continue producing and storing back-up energy when the electric grid goes down, giving homeowners peace of mind and significantly reducing the homeowner’s reliance upon the grid.

When it comes to making a decision about a solar energy provider, Sunnova protects each customer’s solar + battery storage system for 25 years with its Sunnova Protect warranty. From repairs to maintenance, plus 24/7 system’s monitoring and performance, customers are covered every step of the way – from the day the system is turned on through the full term of the agreement.

— Solar Builder magazine