SMA hosting utility-scale solar, storage forum during SPI 2017

utility-scale storage

Following large-scale storage forums in San Francisco and Kassel, Germany, as well as several smaller storage events worldwide, SMA will host another forum in Las Vegas during Solar Power International. The Utility-Scale Storage & PV Forum is geared toward solar professionals focused on utility-scale storage and solar, and will highlight cutting-edge solutions for utility-scale projects. The event will take place Tuesday, September 12, 2017, at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino.

“Our customers and stakeholders are eager to discuss utility-scale solutions with integrated storage and learn more about today’s evolving solar market,” said John Susa, executive vice president of sales for SMA America. “The upcoming forum in Las Vegas will be a great opportunity for discussion and education about the current landscape.”

Topics to be covered during the program include challenges and solutions for high-penetration PV networks, the value and uses cases for storage and how to achieve maximum ROI. It will also will highlight SMA’s full power class lineup of UL listed storage solutions for 1,000 and 1,500 V applications.

The forum will begin at 8:30 a.m. and run until 1:30 p.m. In addition to educational sessions, the event will provide valuable industry networking. Seats are limited, and early registration is encouraged.

Head here to register.

— Solar Builder magazine

What is next for the solar industry? Executives share their thoughts

Get a group of solar industry leaders on a stage in 2016, and all discussions tend to veer into the existential. This is our takeaway from this year’s Solar Power International conference, which took place in Las Vegas, Sept. 12-15. Obviously everyone on those stages agreed that solar power should be the way of the present and is the way of the future, but the path to that future is the main subject of debate. How do we get there? Is it net-metering? What role do utilities play there? What is the collaborative solution?

The bad news is no one has the final answer on those questions, but the fact that these are questions in the first place is good news because it means the solar industry has a crucial role to play in the world going forward. We just have to pick a path. Here are some routes to get there, according to voices on stage during the general sessions over the course of three days.

SPI Lead photo

From left: Jeffrey Ball, Stanford University; David Crane, Pegasus Capital Advisors; Nat Kreamer, Spruce Financial; Steve Malnight, Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Misalignment of interests

California is the world’s sixth largest economy, and the success of its solar industry should be instructive to the rest of the country and world. But as Nat Kreamer, president and CEO of Spruce Finance, pointed out, you can’t draw a straight line from California policy to every other state in the union. In places like Nevada, there is a misalignment of interests in the utility business model and public policy that instead leads to lines drawn in the sand.

“We ran monopolies to utilities to serve the public good. In California, they changed their business to serve the public good, but in a way to attract investment capital,” he said. “In New York, it’s shifting but almost everywhere else it’s not true. So what it means for distributed generation and residential solar is a fight.”

SunLink CEO insight

SunLink CEO Michael Maulick

Evolving business models

Does the business model for solar need to evolve? Several panelists thought so. Kreamer placed the industry’s missteps to this point in this context: “We have this really great technology and value proposition that people want to take, and it saves money and the planet, is good for community, has really long cash flows — we took that fun, exciting thing, and we sold it to people as an equity in a way that loses money.”

Without the benefit of hindsight though, distributed generation got its start in many places the way it had to, considering it wasn’t price competitive, noted David Crane, senior operation executive at Pegasus Capital Advisors. In retrospect, too many companies went public too early and hurt the industry’s ability to be nimble.

“Having run a public company … the public market doesn’t like divergence in strategy,” he said. “They want something predictable. I think it would have been better for the business model to evolve in nonpublic companies.”

“We were still so small as part of the energy mix that we could push the product out in a way that was inconvenient, but people were so motivated they would find their way through it,” said Craig Cornelius, president of NRG Renewables. “Being a supply-push industry, we put a lot of inconveniences on the customer or the electricity system that we inhabit. We now have to take those inconveniences upon ourselves.”

RELATED: Four steps for converting more solar sales 

Changing hearts and minds

SPI photo 3

From left: Julia Hamm, SEPA; Kenneth Munson, Sunverge Energy; Ron Nichols, Southern California Edison.

The other battle that panelists continued to bring up was for the more nebulous concept of the hearts and minds of consumers. Is there a tipping point for solar panels to be the “next iPhone” or a part of a similar shift in the way people live?

Getting there is a challenge. As Crane put it, simply, “customers want cheaper rates to charge things.” But as Kreamer put it: “We need a change in behavior. You will fail if you only focus on price.”

As the industry has shown getting to this point though, changing prices are somewhat integral to changing behavior. To Lynn Jurich, CEO at Sunrun, the goal right now is almost to stay that same course, just work to reduce the complexity of everything — so, changing behavior through simplicity.

“From the consumer perspective, there needs to be more certainty and longevity in rate structures,” she said. “They want to know ‘what’s my bill before and what’s my bill after?’ Attempts for demand charges to complicate a bill halts all of this adoption. It is complicated to explain.”

But on the other hand, maybe adding all of this distributed generation to the grid involves too much complexity. That’s at least the utility side of the story. Ron Nichols, president of Southern California Edison, noted the sheer amount of customers they are trying to serve: “Just to meet load changes we had to make 122,000 changes short and long term. We have to make all of that work in a harmonious system that works every second.”

“When we look at solar, it’s a no brainer, but we look at it as its own entity instead of looking at it from the utility perspective,” said Michael Maulick, CEO of SunLink. “They are providing a great service, so how do we look at their problems with retiring coal-fired plants and make solar a viable alternative?”

“What we’re talking about is fundamentally upending the way power is generated, served and distributed. It’s going to be complex,” said Kenneth Munson, president and co-founder of Sunverge Energy. “How we bridge that is going to be driven by devices within the home that are going to be meant to interpret these complexities in real time to provide the solutions. We don’t necessarily have to have all the answers today.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Details on the next generation Home Energy Solution from Enphase


Enphase home solutions

This gives you an idea of what’s happening under the panels.

At Solar Power International we got an upclose look at the complete Home Energy Solution with IQ that Enphase Energy, Inc. is excited to push to the market in 2017. The plan for the Home Energy Solution is ambitious, as Enphase is trying to move past selling pieces and parts of a home PV system and evolve into a completely integrated solar, storage and energy management offering.

“Enphase is delivering on the strategy we outlined last year: to continually improve our solutions while driving down cost,” said Paul Nahi, president and CEO of Enphase Energy. “The Enphase Home Energy Solution with IQ meets the market’s need for a truly integrated solar, storage, and home energy management system that is even simpler to install and uses a single, intelligent platform.”

RELATED: Check out these five inverters on the show floor 

Enphase AC Module

This version of the AC module is slick. It won’t be ready to go until you slide it up and click it into place (as shown here).

The solution starts with company’s sixth-generation Enphase IQ Microinverter System, which supports high-powered 60- and 72-cell solar modules. They are 30 percent lighter than Enphase S-Series microinvertes and can be integrated in upcoming AC modules from LG and SolarWorld to offer even faster and simpler installations that save on soft costs.

The two-wire Enphase Q Cable is 50 percent lighter than the previous generation of Enphase trunk cable; the Enphase Q Aggregator offers simple “plug and play” connection for up to three branches on the roof; and the Enphase Q Combiner provides further installation and commissioning efficiency.

The Enphase Home Energy Solution with IQ uses a single technology platform for seamless management of the whole solution, enabling rapid commissioning via the Enphase Installer Toolkit; consumption monitoring with a metered Envoy and CTs; and energy insights from the Enlighten Software platform’s easy-to-use interface.

The Enphase IQ 6 microinverters comply with fixed power factor, voltage and frequency ride-through requirements, and meets current and known future requirements for distributed solar on utility networks, including Rule 21 in California and Hawaiian Electric Company Rule 14H.

The Enphase IQ 6 Microinverter System is expected to be available in North America in the first quarter of 2017.

— Solar Builder magazine

Pika Energy awarded SunShot Initiative funding to expand Islanding Inverter capabilities

pika energy

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative has been an extremely successful program that has funded a ton of renewable energy innovation. Under the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) SunShot Initiative, the Department will fund 40 projects with a total of $42 million to improve PV performance, reliability, manufacturability and to enable greater market penetration for solar technologies. In addition to the new projects announced today, the Department intends to make up to $65 million, subject to appropriation, in additional funding available for upcoming solar research and development projects to continue driving down the cost of solar energy and accelerating widespread national deployment.

Announced at the Solar Power International conference in Las Vegas as part of this $107 million in new funding, $875,000 has been awarded to Pika Energy, Inc., which will use the funds to add new hardware and software features to its model X7601 Pika Islanding Inverter, enabling the inverter for demand response, aggregation and other grid services aimed at evolving the U.S. electricity grid. The enhanced communication and software capabilities will allow utilities to remotely dispatch distributed energy systems in periods of peaking demand.

“The Pika Energy Island, with its high voltage bus electronics, has the high efficiency and smart operational features necessary to offer utilities a truly distributed path to the smart grid,” said Pika Energy president and co-founder Ben Polito. “We’re thrilled to work with the U.S. Department of Energy on this exciting project, which will leverage Pika’s technology to take a big step toward a smarter, cleaner grid.”

Pika Energy is becoming a leading provider of smart power electronics for solar-plus-storage. The company’s Pika Energy Island system uses a patented 380V direct current bus to integrate solar and batteries on the same bus, enabling building-scale nanogrids using a single islanding inverter.

— Solar Builder magazine

Meet ProHarvest, the new inverter collaboration from OutBack Power, HiQ Solar

Outback Power invertersAt Solar Power International, OutBack Power Technologies announced the next milestone in its partnership with HiQ Solar, an innovator in 3-phase power-conversion technology for commercial and industrial solar applications: ProHarvest by OutBack Power. The new brand will be offered by OutBack’s direct sales group through selected distribution sales partners, while HiQ Solar will continue to work with its project partners. Furthermore, OutBack Power’s technical and applications and warranty groups will support OutBack sales of ProHarvest products.

“With ProHarvest, we can get HiQ’s project-proven technology in front of a wider audience and open new opportunities through installers wishing to grow their commercial business,” said Harvey Wilkinson, general manager of OutBack Power.

Added HiQ Solar’s chairman and CEO, Lutz Henckels, “Our unique technology makes plug-and-play commercial solar viable for solar contractors looking to expand their portfolios and offer commercial services. In partnership with OutBack Power using the ProHarvest line, we can now provide that technology with the assurance and support required to earn many new customers.”

Over the past five years, commercial solar installation has grown significantly, with equally dramatic shifts in balance-of-system preferences. Once dominated by large, powerful and relatively economical (but inflexible and bulky) central inverters, the trend today is to use many string inverters that are easier to install and provide redundancy; if an inverter fails, the entire system is not out of commission. The HiQ approach combines the best of all worlds: improved economics of a large string inverter, with the array-mounting and form-factor of a microinverter. With this technology, installers have a plug-and-play system architecture to work with. Key components literally snap together, saving considerable installation time and effort. Equally important, this system topology meets all code-required standards for rapid shut-down and disconnect in commercial systems—very important for system owners and their stakeholders.

— Solar Builder magazine