Span launched and started shipping its smart electrical panel last year – a reinvention of an old, basic concept to better serve today’s connected, electrified, renewably powered homes. Maybe more impressive than the technology is the amount of excitement they’ve generated at the same time, coming out of the gate with a strong group of investors, immediately followed by in-field partnerships with industry leaders LG Chem and Panasonic. It can support Powerwall installations as well.
Today, you can add another $20 million in funding led by Munich Re Ventures’ HSB Fund and joined by Amazon’s Alexa Fund (with continued participation from existing investors). This strategic investment will help further expand Span Smart Panel reach to homeowners and develop new product offerings, and it coincides with Span’s latest update: Voice integration with Amazon’s Alexa.
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“As Amazon continues to expand its smart devices portfolio and home services business, we see Span’s energy control and automation as an important new area for innovation which will add value to our customers,” said Paul Bernard, Director of the Amazon Alexa Fund.
Customers can now use Alexa-enabled devices to turn on or off any circuit or appliance in their home, find out what energy source is providing power, see how charged their batteries are (and ask for load adjustments to get more out of those batteries).
Span is vying to truly be the center of the smart home revolution, and we chatted with founder and CEO Arch Rao about the tech and his vision for solar installation businesses.
The Span pitch for solar installers
The immediate benefit for solar installers is how upgrading a home’s old electric panel with the Smart Panel avoids all the annoyance and complexity of installing a sub panel when adding energy storage. It’s an all-around faster and easier process, but now you have a whole new world of home energy service and sales opportunities.
“We’ve stagnated on the growth rate of solar over the last three or four years,” Rao notes. “Increasing the adoption of solar is often attached with also selling storage and EV charging, but this decade I expect it to be a lot more about electric appliances. This really gives solar installers the opportunity to lead with a product that enables more product and service sales to customers while also giving the customer real data.”
The the type of data available at the circuit level of a home is unprecedented, and we are really just starting to scratch the surface of what we can do with it.
“As a homeowner, you’d probably like to know before a device fails, and have something autonomously turn off prior to a failure event,” Rao says, indicating such interactivity is either possible now or will be coming very shortly, not just as a panel-level action, but one sent directly to an appliance. “And because we have a capable edge computing device in the panel, and with communication (LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee) pre-built into the panel, we can keep adding software updates that reach more parts of your home.”
On the installer side, you could see a not-too-distant future where the sale and install of a Span Smart Panel actually comes first, before a customer is ready to invest in solar or storage, just to reap the electrified home insights. The solar installer in this scenarios is a broader home energy services provider. Down the road, selling solar or batteries or even a more efficient air conditioner is an easier sales pitch with tangible data.
For larger enterprises, maybe this is all part of a virtual power plant strategy, managing generation, storage and load controls across the fleet.
According to Matthew McElhattan, Investment Director at Munich Re Ventures, “As investors and partners, respectively, Munich Re Ventures and HSB are excited to support Span’s efforts to encourage the adoption of clean energy solutions through their intelligent energy products and technologies. Arch Rao’s vision for Span aligns with our mission to close the digital gap, improve customer experience, and advance the sustainable use of energy.”
Munich Re Ventures, the venture arm of Munich Re, is a leading global provider of reinsurance, primary insurance, and insurance-related risk solutions. Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB), a subsidiary of Munich Re, is a multi-line specialty insurer/reinsurer and provider of inspection, risk management, and IoT technology services for businesses and homes.
Potential partners interested in becoming Span Certified Installers can reach out through the Span partnership page.
— Solar Builder magazine