I was fortunate enough this past week to jet over to the All Energy Expo in Melbourne; the event coincided with Enphases' anticipated unveiling of their Home Energy Solution.
The Home Energy Solution is a new, smart energy distribution system for everyday solar power generation for your home. Integrating solar generation, energy control and energy storage, it provides homeowners with greater control over their solar power. I met up with Keera Single, Strategic Account Manager at Enphase, and he was gracious enough to give me, and my readers, a thorough review of this exciting new technology.
The Enphase AC battery is one component of Enphases Home Energy Solution I was really excited about getting to view at the expo.
Why? Because the solar industry is a buzz at the moment with all things concerning battery storage and solar. There are the big questions 'who's going to have the first affordable option' and 'who's going to get it onto the market fastest'. The good news for New Zealanders; the Enphase AC battery will be here in Winter 2016, which in the scheme of things is impressive. It sometimes feels as though we are a few months behind the giant markets of America and Australia with new solar technologies, but it would appear those days are swiftly coming to an end. Enphase has even teamed up with Genesis Energy in New Zealand for their beta energy storage trials.
The AC Battery is modular, just like Enphase's micro inverters. The idea would be to add as many units as you want, with the ability to add more over time, easily. Each battery is relatively small and has a storage capacity of 1.2kW, weighing in at 20-25kg per battery. With a 10-year warranty it is built for 2 cycles per day (i.e. filling the battery up twice and thus using the energy from the battery twice). The units of the battery are designed to be wall mounted and are easy to install, in fact any registered electrician in New Zealand could do the job with relative ease.
So, how many AC battery units would you need? This can be best answered by Enphase's new Envoy-S Metered, which is a step up on the previous communications gateway product. The previous model allowed the Enphase systems owners to watch how much power their solar panels were producing through an online portal called Enphase Enlighten. The new Envoy-S Metered lets the home owner know the amount of energy solar power is directly consumed in the household, how much is being exported to the grid, and the energy flow to and from the batteries.
Keera suggests "we envisage that most people will start with solar and the Envoy-S metered, which can then measure their consumption and their generation, and then they can easily work out from there how much storage they may need". And I have to agree, this is a smart move. Because while these new batteries may be more affordable, I wouldn't want to buy 6 and then figure out I only usually use 3 of those batteries on a daily basis. Keera recommended, "you might have six months' or 12 months' worth of data before you actually decide how many batteries you may need."
The consumer end price has yet to be established, and will vary between retailers once it arrives in New Zealand. To give you an idea of cost Keera explain the introductory price of "$1,150 per kwh (for the Australian market) is our direct customers' approximately purchase price, " On top of that, you've got distributors and installers margin which will determine the final retail price.
Keera provided some interesting insights about Enphase's vision. He explained that their DNA comes from a communications background; two of their developers are ex-Cisco. This explains why they tend to invest so much into the communications side of their products. The Enphase Enlighten online portal has a cloud-based API - allowing for any developer to build apps to enhance the experience for the systems owner, helping them to integrate the Enphases' Home Energy Solution with the rest of their home. The apps that currently work with the Enlighten system are the Google' Nest Thermostat system. In Europe, there are lighting companies with an app that integrates with Enphase. Keera elaborated: "We're making sure that whatever happens in the future, we have an open platform that can be used among fridge companies, air conditioning companies, pool, electric vehicles, so that they can all work together, seamlessly"
To add to the unveiling, Enphase introduced a new generation Enphase S-Micro inverter. Designed for high-powered solar panels (compatible with 60-cell PV modules), it has the highest efficiency of any micro-inverter on the market (97%) and minimizes homeowners and installers risk of changing power lines grid requirements.
It was great to hear that Enphase are invested in creating software and communications, not simply relegating themselves to building and delivering innovative components. Keera and the team at Enphase surprised me with their new technologies that can connect an entire house, proving that solar power needn't be a stand-alone feature. The All Energy Expo proved to be a fantastic and worthwhile trip, the solar power industry grows stronger, bolder and it is more innovative than ever. Exciting times ahead, indeed.