The residential solar + storage market is still more buzz than business as we finish out 2019, but Generac, the largest brand in the home standby generator space, has plans to single-handedly change that going into 2020.
I don’t think that’s an overstatement, either. There is momentum in residential solar + storage, to be sure. In the Q3 Energy Storage Monitor Report, Wood Mackenzie and the Energy Storage Association counted 5,215 residential storage units (34.8 MW) installed in the second quarter this year. This is certainly the best quarter to date for residential storage and more than all of the residential installations in 2017.
Meanwhile, Generac finds that many customers in its couch cushions. It is far and away the leader in the $1 billion home standby backup (HSB) generator market and generated over 100,000 annual appointments for product followups in the last 12 months. After selling more than 2 million residential backup systems and building a roster of 6,200 contractors, essentially establishing this HSB market on its own in 1989, it has serious plans to do the same for home storage.
Adding a storage option is a future-proofing move by Generac. The company smartly diversified its offerings by acquiring Neurio, a leading energy management technology, and Pika Energy, a developer of advanced power electronics, software and controls for smart energy storage and management, to build out its own intelligent home energy management system. At SPI this year, PWRcell line made its debut:
• PWRcell Storage System: This fully integrated all-in-one storage platform offers 8 kW of continuous power and 10 kW surge capacity to start heavy loads such as air conditioners. The battery platform is scalable from 8.6 kWh up to 34.2 kWh using a single inverter and can be expanded at any time.
• PWRview Home Energy Monitor and App: The Generac PWRview is a standalone home energy monitoring system that provides a real-time snapshot of how energy is used in the home and what that energy costs. Over time, PWRview creates an energy profile of the home, giving users better information to make decisions on their own energy usage.
• SnapRS: This is an inline PV rapid-shutdown device that works with PWRcell and PV Link that fully complies with NEC 2017 to make PV installations strong and safe.
• PV Link Substring Optimizer: Generac PV Link works with PWRcell and SnapRS to create flexible and easy-to-install solar arrays. Able to control up to nine PV modules each, PV Link and SnapRS drastically reduce the amount of complex power-electronic hardware needed to install rapid-shutdown compliant PV arrays.
Establishing a new market
The plan for Generac’s new Clean Energy division isn’t to just have a home battery solution and then hang back and wait for the market to take off. The company tells us it plans to revive its playbook from 1989 when it created the HSB market.
“We have a long track record of success in selling home energy products, and we are confident that we have the right product, with the right message, at the right time to become relevant in the solar + storage marketplace,” says Russ Minick, president of Generac Clean Energy. “We use an efficient approach to drive awareness of all of our products, and our approach has been a key reason we’ve been successful in decreasing the cost of acquisition. We’re going to use a similar playbook to bring PWRcell to the market.”
That playbook consists of unlocking the power of television, cutting-edge digital techniques and highly targeted outbound efforts, combined with a robust marketing budget, all directed at homeowners to grow understanding and interest in solar + storage products — specifically the value of Generac Clean Energy products.
Growing general awareness in the public and establishing more market demand could translate to lower customer acquisition costs. Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewable pegs the customer acquisition cost of a 7-kW solar system at $4,550 per customer. Generac says it generates appointment leads for far less than industry norms.
Options for all
To be sure, the tried-and-true propane and natural gas generator solutions will still lead the way for Generac. This certainly separates it from diehard renewable energy competitors in this space, but the market could benefit from an outsider, using untapped marketing channels, to move the boundaries of who’s considered to be the typical solar + storage customer.
“All customers are unique, with unique residential power needs, which is why we’re excited to provide a full spectrum of power solutions to meet any requirement,” Minick says. “Generac home standby generators are the best solution for long-duration power outages. Propane- and natural gas-fueled generator systems are peerless when it comes to emergency backup power solutions because of their ability to move from standby to generating electricity to the home as soon as the utility power is cut.
“PWRcell solar power storage systems time-shift the use of electricity generated from the sun, thus cutting utility bills and saving money. It also provides consumers with short-term backup power and the knowledge that they have a less carbon-intensive system supplying their electricity.”
In the end, Generac now has a complete home energy management and storage system designed to work with any PV solar panel array that can be installed by its growing network of certified independent contractors, which could include you.
“Other areas we add value include large scale certified contractor training programs covering sales, installation and post-sale support,” Minick says. “We are providing to our aligned contractors the market leading project sales and design tools that have historically been out of reach for the independent solar company.”
Readers interested in diversifying their own product offering — and perhaps benefitting from this new leads channel — can contact their solar distributor to learn more about the Generac Clean Energy program.
— Solar Builder magazine