Enphase has always seen itself as much more than an inverter maker. Co-founder Raghu Belur has stressed that his is a software company with a microinverter product, and the latest product announcements from Enphase are a testament to this approach.
At the Solar Power International trade show in Las Vegas, Enphase has announced its coming foray into energy storage with a new AC battery product, as a component of its new Enphase Energy Management System.
Both of the products are ambitious. The AC battery reinvents standard battery system architecture by creating a parallel, plug-and-play system where additional batteries can be easily added. Enphase notes that this removes any single point of failure. It is also safer for installers as there is no high-voltage DC, and easier to install as each AC battery weighs only 40 lbs. (18 kg.).
While Enphase says that it thinks this can be the most cost-effective solution in the market today, market dynamics are important. The real market for energy storage in the United States is not currently in the residential sector, where Enphase is currently the largest inverter supplier, but commercial.
Here the structure of rates is the critical factor. The ability of storage to reduce demand charges means has created an existing market for energy storage that Enphase can tap into.
Energy storage will be a component of the larger energy management system, which will provide communications, data and analytics and advanced grid functionality. It’s like an operating system, and solar is just one function that is running on this operating system, Belur explained to pv magazine.
This system will work with Enphase’s 5th generation S-Series microinverter, which offers a 97% CEC efficiency. It also offers full bi-directional power flow, which when combined with the advanced functions like supply of reactive power will provide more services to the grid.
Enphase is preparing for a new electricity system where PV supplies a larger portion of power, and anticipating the technical needs that this will create. I don’t think that as the penetration levels increase, it can’t be just attached to the grid, says Belur. You cannot just have a static PV system up there.
The company says that in creating these capabilities, it is looking less at requirements which were imposed in Germany than in its own backyard, citing issues with the Hawaiian electricity system that have come from very high penetrations of PV on isolated island grids.
Enphase has a good deal of expertise with the Hawaiian electricity system, and has collected substantial data. Another function of the system will be providing data to grid operators, and Enphase notes that it collects roughly 600 GB of performance data.
The AC Battery and Energy Management System will be rolled out commercially available in the second half of 2015.