Tag: "intersolar"

08/17/18

  03:15:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1210 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Energy Storage

What I Saw at Enphase - Mind Blown!

Enphase hqLast month during Intersolar, I (along with colleagues Sara and Victoria) was lucky enough to get invited to see a microgrid demonstration featuring the Enphase next-gen IQ8 at their headquarters in Petaluma, California.  As I had to sign an NDA as the price of admission, I was unable to write about what I had seen until today, when Enphase hosted their annual Analyst’s Day.  But I am no longer bound by that agreement, and can now tell you about what I saw. 

To say that I was impressed would be a gross understatement - quite simply, it was the most astonishing thing I have ever seen in the solar industry.  Settle in and let me tell you what I saw…

What Happens Today

Before I launch into describing the demo, let me remind you of what happens today.  All of the systems that we have installed are what is referred to as “grid-tied” which means that if the grid goes down, the PV system that is capable of back-feeding the grid also goes down, and remains down until the grid comes back.  (This is to prevent your house from being an island of energy, feeding the grid, and potentially injuring a worker trying to restore grid service.  As a result, this feature is known as “anti-islanding” and it is required of all inverter systems that are connected to the grid.)

Normally this is not a problem, but last month, when it got super hot out here (think 115° F hot!), both SCE and LADWP suffered dozens of outages, taking down PV systems across large swathes of LA County, and leaving frustrated PV owners without power, or A/C, just like their PV-less brethren.  Not good.

What I Saw in the Lab

Which brings us to what I saw at Enphase last month.

The lab looked like an ordinary industrial space, but with a series of household appliances and tools at one side.  There was a simulated array feeding a bank of IQ8 inverters, and a display that showed the output of the array (i.e., PV production), the total consumption from the loads, and any power being exported or imported to support those loads.  At the start of the demo the only load was a single red lamp, and the display indicated that it was drawing roughly 90 Watts.  The PV array was producing roughly 1.9 kWs, so the excess 1,800 Watts was being exported to the grid.  All super normal stuff.

But then things got interesting…

One of the engineers switched off the breaker that connected the PV array to the grid… and nothing happened!  Well, actually, a lot happened, but what didn’t happen was that the red light did not go off.  It didn’t even flicker to the extent that we could detect it.  But then when you looked at the display you noticed something amazing.  Not only had the microinverters created a grid on their own in fractions of a second, but they had throttled the output down so that now the production of the PV array exactly matched the load of the red light!  And here’s the kicker - there were no batteries attached to this system!!!

But what fun is just having a light on?  How about some toast?  So they switched on a toaster, and it lit up, and the total load jumped by about 1,000 Watts, making the total load now around 1.1 kW, and the PV array scaled up to meet it!  Still no batteries.  And how about this - there was no central controller, no master-slave relationship between the microinverters.  Rather, this was the “hive mind” at work, as the micros sensed the demand and scaled up or down as necessary to meet that load!

But wait, there’s more!

The next load to be added was a grinder like you might find on your workbench in the garage.  All by itself, that device drew roughly 1,200 Watts, bring our total load to roughly 2.3 kW - more than the maximum output of our simulated array.  What would happen when that was added to the mix?  Surprisingly little.  The grinder spun normally, but the red light dimmed slightly.  What was going on?  The system’s “hive mind” had lowered the voltage slightly (a microgrid equivalent of a brown out) to meet the amperage demand of the new load mix!  So slightly slower than normal, cooler than normal, dimmer than normal, but all operating.

Of course, all good things must come to an end.  Our already overloaded microgrid faced one more challenge - a vacuum cleaner with a significant in-rush current, far in excess of what the grid could sustain.  Indeed, as soon as they switched the vacuum cleaner to “on", everything shut off.  Nothing was damaged, the microinverters just shut off to protect themselves.

Turning on the vacuum cleaner served as the “ah-ha” moment for the potential homeowner - I guess I can’t run everything in grid outage mode.  So what do you do when something you just did produced an undesired result?  Well if you can, you undo it!  Turning the vacuum cleaner off, immediately restored the microgrid to its previous state of operation!  No delay.  No human intervention - just turn off that latest (over)load, and the system recovers on its own!

How cool is that?  Pretty damn cool, if you ask me!

Batteries Please?

So what about batteries, how do they play with this new system?  Just exactly as you would want.

The engineers added a bank of batteries to the mix, each with an IQ8 installed.  Now the display also indicated the battery’s overall state of charge, and whether they were charging or discharging.  Reset the demo to just the red light as a load and the batteries at 30% state of charge.  The PV array output jumped back to its maximum, with the surplus energy being used to charge the batteries.  As more loads were added, the PV array remained at maximum output, and as needed, drew power from the batteries.  Should the batteries reach full capacity and the PV output is greater than the loads, the microinverters will once again throttle down.

Sweet!

What’s Next?

I hope you agree that this was an amazing demo, and the IQ8 (or Ensemble, as Enphase refers to the overall system) has tremendous potential, both for Enphase as a company, and for so many nascent markets.  Think of how this product could have helped out in Puerto Rico, or in parts of Africa which have never, ever seen a grid!  Makes me want to book a trip to bring power to a village somewhere - hey Laurel, what do you say?

For our own clients, this has the potential to be the answer we have been seeking ever since Elon’s whoppers got people thinking about storage for the first time ever.

A point we raised with Enphase management is the need to have a reasonable upgrade path for existing clients.  Indeed, I have a call with Enphase tomorrow to discuss that very topic.  We know that current Enphase IQ products (the 6+ and 7+ we have been installing this year) will be compatible with Ensemble.  We expect to be able to work with older systems, though there may be a higher retrofit cost.  When we have that information, we will surely let you know!  The IQ8 is expected to be available in 1H2019… watch this space!

 Permalink18 comments »

07/23/16

  12:57:00 pm, by Laurel Hamilton   , 1594 words  
Categories: Residential Solar, Ranting, Energy Storage, Net Metering, Intersolar 2016

Intersolar 2016 - Bests & Worsts of the Hottest Solar Event of the Year

Its been a week since we returned from the most epic solar event of the year - Intersolar North America in San Francisco. Now that we are caught up on the backlog of emails and calls we can take a moment to reflect on key highlights from the event. 

Top 2 New Innovative Products to Watch

  1. BeamReach SolarBeamreachWhere do I start with this truly innovative new company?? Beamreach Solar unveiled a product called Sprint that includes the attachments, racking, and panel all in one. The panel frame and “racking” is entirely made of a composite plastic (material tested in automotive and other outdoor conditions for 20+ years). They demonstrated the installation of 6 panels in about 5 minutes! Designed for flat roof commercial projects, the tilt up back end pops out to click into a base which also pops out and sticks with a roofing adhesive to the roof. The front of the next panel then clicks into the base of the first panel and so on. The whole system is obviously much lighter (including a handle in the middle of the panel) and way faster to install than conventional ballasted systems. Best of all, no grounding required since there’s no metal to ground!
    While this is an awesome new product we have to wonder about a few things… 1) Do we have to powerwash the roof first for the adhesive to work? 2) What if a footing is incorrectly placed?! According to the great sales rep we spoke with… while the panels can be removed and replaced easily for maintenance, the footing is solid once it adheres to the roof so you’d have to essentially re-roof if you want to get rid of them. And 3) most roofs are nowhere near as flat as the surface Beamreach demonstrated on. How does the system deal with irregularities on the roof given the sticky feet are basically a flat square? We look forward to following this company as they work out the kinks in their exciting product. Keep your eyes peeled for a blog post where we dig in a little deeper on this.

  2. Photon - While we didn’t get to actually talk to the masterminds behind this new start-up the idea is spot on. Photon is a subscription based app whereby your smartphone (with the addition of a cheap lens from Amazon) can take a shade analysis on a roof. I don’t think many installers would shed a single tear giving up their SunEye or Pathfinders. We may just have to try this innovative new app out. 

Top 3 Developments from Existing Partners

  1. Energy Toolbase - These guys are the kings of data. We have been working with them since last year’s Intersolar to help us show our clients how solar will offset their electric bills with the greatest confidence possible. They are constantly adding more of the dozens of complex rate models around the country to their system. And now they’ve built in net metering 2.0 in anticipation of this huge change to California rates coming next year as well as storage into their models. Staying ahead of all the rate changes nation-wide is a huge undertaking but these guys are on top of it! 


  2. Life’s Good (LG) - While LG didn’t have a booth this year, Run on Sun’s CEO Jim Jenal enjoyed a breakfast where LG showed off their mammoth 375 watt, 72 cell panel. This is no surprise as LG continues to churn out higher wattage panels every year with their successful R&D department. Currently 320 watt, 60 cell panels (standard for residential solar) are available to us but it sounds like we can expect even higher efficiency coming within the year.  

  3. Enphase Energy - Storage beta installations are taking place in Australia where they recently mounted 4 units in just 45 minutes! Can’t wait to get our hands on them as many of our clients have expressed interest in storage. Looks like we may be able to get beta Enphase batteries in the coming year! Interested clients (especially those in SCE territory) please let us know if you want to be one of the first!

Top 2 Companies Trying too HardSmartFlower POP

  1. Smartflower POP - There was a lot of hubbub around this giant solar flower thingy. While I like that it has integrated storage and the dual axis tracker is great for increasing output in a big way…we couldn’t help but feel like this was way over engineered. There are actually several other solar flowers out there and I think solar-integrated art is a fantastic way to showcase to the public and get the social benefit when a solar system may be hidden on a rooftop. But take a look at this Smartflower. There’s some serious mechanics going on to make the thing open in the morning, track the sun, then close at night. Why it needs to open and close is beyond me and just seems overly complicated, heavy, and probably costly. (To be fair, we didn’t get the full spiel from the sales guys.)

  2. Ten K Solar - Sometimes its a fine line between being innovative and being overly complicated. When you decide to roll three “innovative” products into one maybe that’s a sign that you’ve crossed the line. I’m not sure if I’m more excited about the concept of wiring in series and parallel - making each “half” cell operate independently, or more confused as to why they orient the system north/south and eliminated MC4’s. To be sure there are some exciting things about this product and the people at Ten K definitely have thought outside the box. Will be keeping an eye on them for sure.

Top 4 Most Amazing Moments

Battle of the Bands

Kendra Hubbard, Jim Jenal, Jeff Spies, and me at BotB

  1. BayWa r.e. Customer Appreciation - As many of you know, Baywa r.e. is our fabulous distributor for many reasons. Namely they share a similar ethos and dedication to quality solar and an accountable honest industry that we do. But beyond sharing similar missions they also treat us really well!
    This year BayWa hosted a customer appreciation “chill out” area throughout Intersolar. Anytime the crowds and meetings were too much we could go sit outside in the shade, get a chair massage, and enjoy a cold beverage or lunch! Yeah, you heard me…Chair Massage. Best distribution partners EVER!

  2. Solar Summerfest - It wouldn’t be Intersolar without an epic party or two! This year’s Solar Summerfest did not disappoint. From the variety of food spreads (loved the veg options!) and bars (wine, margaritas AND whiskey?!) to the awesome entertainment provided by professional break dancers… this was such a fun time to relax and get to know our solar friends and partners. As the night went on the real highlights were seeing BayWa’s Scott Snyder rock the karaoke stage and CalSEIA’s Bernadette del Chiaro cut a serious rug on the dance floor. And according to Jim’s pedometer Jim and I danced an impressive 7216 steps with our friends at Everest Solar

  3. DeloreanBattle of the Bands - And then there was the Battle of the Bands where solar companies show off their employees’ musical talents (and the Solar Tribe hangs out, like the four of us in the picture above). Solar folks really know how to party!  Special thanks to Jeff Spies for hooking us up with invite only tix!

  4. Delorean! - Did I forget to mention the Back to the Future Delorean was on display…and I got to sit in it? That was a pretty cool moment for an 80’s kid like myself. 


Top 2 Most Annoying Moments

  1. When that guy I met at SolarFred’s Solar Tweetup (which was a great event by the way) asked me how Run on Sun was different than SunRun and couldn’t wrap his head around how installation companies can be so different. Even when given the most perfect metaphor… “We are like a microbrewery making delicious quality beer for the benefit of the people in the most sustainable thought-driven way, and SunRun is like Coors. NOT THE SAME.” He still didn’t get it, sigh. 

  2. TalesunWhen I casually walked the exhibition floor looking for current and future partners working for the betterment of the solar industry and the world at large…and was confronted with a booth filled with girls dressed in what looked like playboy bunny costumes. Jim already described his take on Talesun’s display choices and their obvious lack of understanding for why they received such a negative reaction in another blog. But as a woman working in this industry with a rare position including answering phones, designing layouts, pulling permits, AND torquing bolts on the roof… I felt personally offended by Talesun’s decision to use misogynistic objectification to try to sell their product. Due to my many roles I feel I represent, or have an understanding of, a lot of different people in this industry.
    And I’m not alone, according to the 2015 Solar Foundation National Census women represented 24% of solar jobs, surely even more today! When a quarter of your clientèle are women why in the world would you use booth babes to market your products? Solar is supposed to be different than other male dominated construction industries.
    This is supposed to be an industry that makes the world a better place and values everyone equally for their contributions. That booth did not speak to me positively on any level in any of my roles as installer, administrator, customer service representative, saleslady, health and safety officer, or general solar ninja. On the bright side I was pleased to hear that the majority of Intersolar participants made it very widely known how unacceptable Talesun’s display was. This only solidifies my feeling that this is a great industry for women, despite a few bad apples who may never “get it".  

08/07/15

  12:25:00 pm, by Laurel Hamilton   , 736 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Events, Intersolar 2015

Intersolar North America 2015 - Recap

Intersolar 2015Three weeks ago the Run on Sun team took San Francisco by storm for the annual Intersolar events and exhibition. In the solar industry products are changing incredibly fast. Intersolar and Solar Power International (September 14-17th) are the two most important events for industry experts to come together and be able to put our hands on the latest and greatest products while establishing relationships with potential partners around the world. 

Show us what you’ve got!!

Enphase boothAs we mentioned in our Intersolar 2015 Preview blog, we were really on the prowl in the exhibition hall. Number one on our list was to find viable storage options as our client-base is quickly shifting to time-of-use rates and smart storage will be a huge asset to enable more local consumption of energy at the right time, as well as to reduce those high demand spikes for commercial clients.

Enphase Energy, of microinverter fame, actually had their own booth at IS this year, a first for them, and their emphasis was on their modular storage solution - which they call the AC Battery - made possible by their next generation, S-Series microinverter - which is bi-directional.  Since the system sits on the AC side of a solar installation, it is compatible with any solar system whether it uses Enphase microinverters or not.

Enphase readily acknowledges that the economic proposition for local consumption is not really present in the U.S. yet, which is why they are first rolling the product out in Australia.  However, as the present discussions before the CPUC demonstrate, net metering is changing and soon.  When it does, the economic case for systems like the AC Battery will become compelling.

Second task on our list was to find out what panels LG would be offering and when we could start getting them on rooftops. Since LG didn’t have a booth at IS, hints toward panels with higher efficiency and higher output were verified by a meeting with our distributor, Baywa r.e. (formerly known as Focused Energy).We are now looking at 310 and 315 Watt panels available in September. This is up from the 305’s currently available and 260’s which were available this time just one year ago!

Our last mission as we weaved through the multitude of flashy products on display was to find better options for racking. While we have no intention of finding an alternative for our pitched roof racking company, Everest, our ballasted flat roof racking experience has left something to be desired by our installers. And the growing interest in solar carport systems means we need a good partner we can rely on to develop beautiful high-quality structures. We looked at several new products and talked to some great people on this front. We will be vetting these companies and discussing the applicability of their options with our clients over the next few months. 

Solar “Networking"… aka PARTIES!Sungevity SBOB

Any good industry gathering has GREAT parties, and the solar community definitely delivers in this department. The Run on Sun team enjoyed rubbing elbows with solar celebrities, new and old friends at various social events throughout the week. Laurel ate breakfast and discussed gender-specific solar challenges with WISE (Women in Solar Energy). The lunch hour Tweetup hosted by @SolarFred and put on by our friends at @Enphase, @RECSolar and @Grid was a blast. Of course the Solar Summerfest put on by CALSEIA and the Solar Battle of the Bands were not to be missed either. Who knew solar companies had such amazing musical talent?! The battle of the bands was more packed than we’ve ever seen, the only painful side to an ever expanding industry. Laurel’s favorite, the awesome funk band from Sungevity rocked the house and took home the winning title. If you attended either event you probably spotted Run on Sun’s Jim, Laurel and Josh making full use of the dance floor! No one on the RoS team will deny…we DO like to have fun. 

Solar Summerfest

KicklineThe Run on Sun team cutting a rug at Solar Summerfest!
Thanks Kendra Hubbard for the pics!

What’s Next??

Its hard to believe that in just over a month we will be boarding a local train to Anaheim for Solar Power International, “North America’s largest solar trade show". Beyond what we saw at Intersolar, our distributor Baywa r.e will have a presence as well as our favorite solar panel manufacturer: Life’s Good Electronics. We’re looking forward to more exciting product announcements and connecting with friends once again! Hope to see you there!

07/13/15

  08:00:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 872 words  
Categories: Energy Storage, Intersolar 2015

Intersolar 2015 Preview

Intersolar North America 2015 (IS) kicks off this week in San Francisco, and as we have for the past several years, Run on Sun will be there to learn, to mingle with the rest of the Solar Tribe, and yes, to party!  Here’s our preview (with more to come after the show).

Coming Attractions?

One of the biggest attractions of IS, the exhibition floor is crammed with every solar-related product and service imaginable (and some you wouldn’t have believed until seen!).  Here are some of the things we are actively looking for as we roam the floor (and it really is a “we” this year as Laurel and Josh will be attending as well!)

Craving for Saving (Energy)

Craving saving energyWe have been writing about, and longing for, viable energy storage solutions for as long as we have been attending IS. While the hype around storage has only grown exponentially since, the number of viable products still remains depressingly thin.  Will this be the show when that finally changes?

Number one on our cross-your-fingers list is the previously announced, but not yet available, storage offering from Enphase Energy.  Given that we have a whole lot of Enphase systems in the field, and a client-base that is rapidly shifting to time-of-use rates, the Enphase product, if it is a product, would be huge.  While the timing would surely be right, our anticipation is amped-up by the knowledge that Enphase will have a booth at IS (a first for them, to our knowledge).

Interestingly, neither SolarCity nor Tesla is listed among the exhibitors as of this morning - I guess we won’t be seeing any Powerwalls on display.

Bigger, Better, Soon?

Beyond storage, manufacturers are always touting their bigger, better products at the show and this year should be no different.  Of particular interest in that regard is the potential release of a slew of new, larger module options coming from our favorite solar panel maker, LG.  We have seen the hints on this front for sometime now as the CEC approved list of LG modules includes units as large as 325 Watts - compared to the LG 305’s which are presently the largest thing we are seeing in distribution.  So will we now have multiple options for higher efficiency, higher output panels from LG?  And if so, when and at what cost? 

Meanwhile, Enphase appears poised to announce a new microinverter product, the S280 (just in time to pair with those higher power LG modules?), as it too now appears on the CEC list.

We know that we have clients eagerly awaiting these developments - watch this space!

Rack me Up!

Racking solutions continue to be an area where the cleverness of the design rarely survives the realities of the roof.  We are constantly exploring new approaches for difficult problems such as viable ballasted systems (that will be accepted by AHJ’s like LA City and County) and structure suppliers for the growing interest in carports, pergolas and the like.  While we have worked with a number of companies in this area, we are still on a quest for solutions that not only look good on paper, but that our installers can grow to love.  We will be prowling the floor of IS with that as our number one must have.

We should note, however, that we remain quite pleased with Everest Solar as our pitched roof solution, and that view was enhanced by the long-awaited release of their UL-2703 listed end and mid-clamps.  The inspectors who have looked at that system on the roof have been quite impressed with it, as are we.

Party Time

It wouldn’t be IS without the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and, hopefully, make some new ones amidst the Solar Tribe.  After all, these are people who work every day to make the world a better, cleaner, more sustainable place.  They are a great bunch of folks and we are honored to be counted among ‘em!

First up is the Tweetup, hosted once again by solar celeb, Tor - @SolarFred - Valenza, with backing from @Enphase, @RECSolar, and @Grid.  This has turned into an annual, and eagerly anticipated event, and we thank in advance Solar Fred and friends for making this happen.

Did you see what they had at XYZ booth?Then comes Summerfest, a huge gathering of folks with lots of different types of food and drink and great views of the downtown San Francisco skyline.  Summerfest is a great place to exchange views of what was on display on the exhibition floor, and to plot strategy for the next day, as in, “Did you see what they had over at the XYZ booth?  It was amazing you have to check it out!”

But it is Wednesday night that really crowns the show.  Starting with the great afterparty/pre-SBOB party thrown by Impress Labs - thanks to Solar Curator Tom Cheyney for hooking us up - we are able to get warmed up for the main event - the Solar Battle of the Bands!  For the first time ever we are heading into the show knowing where are ducats are coming from - thanks to Jessica over at Solar Power World for the connection!

It is going to be a busy week, and we look forward to learning a lot.  Look for our recap of the show next week!

07/09/12

  08:16:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 155 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Events

InterSolar - Here We Come!

This week marks the InterSolar North America conference in San Francisco.  Given that Solar Power International is way across the country this year, we are opting to attend InterSolar instead.  We are looking forward to checking out the exhibitors and learning the latest to bring back to our clients.   (Last year at SPI we discovered the LG solar panels which have been such a huge hit so far this year!)

If you are going, we would love to meet up with you.  What are you hoping to see at this year’s show?  Please let us know in the comments.

Also, there will be a TweetUp for lunch on Wednesday at the Thristy Bear - great chance to meet the Twitter Solar Tribe - and we will also raise a glass in honor of our departed colleague, Heather Andrews
You can RSVP for the TweetUp here.

We will report back on all the goings on upon our return!

Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

Ready to Save?

Let’s Get Started!

Give Us a Call!

626.793.6025 or
310.584.7755

Click to Learn More About Commercial Solar Power!

We're Social!



Follow Run on Sun on Twitter Like Run on Sun on Facebook

Search

Run on Sun helps fight Climate Change
Free blog engine