Growing demand for three phase solutions – Interview

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pv magazine: The SolaX battery inverter portfolio is very broad and comprehensive. Could you begin by describing the company’s range, in chronological order – which came first, and how has SolaX grown its portfolio?

Pan: Let’s start with the beginning, our single phase hybrid battery inverter. It is a 48 Volt system, which is able to charge and discharge with 1,300 Watts power. There was more demand coming from the market, so we made a new generation system, still a 48 Volt single phase device, but able to charge and discharge with 2,500 & 5,000 Watts power. Then demand kept growing, especially for three phase inverters, and we developed the X3 (three phase) hybrid inverter, with high-voltage batteries. We needed this high-voltage to enable us to charge and discharge even more. So, if we talk about three phase, we can charge and discharge, depending on the system size and design, a maximum of 10,000 Watts power.

How has the AC-coupled retrofit charger performed on the market since its launch? And in which markets is it proving most popular, and why?

This product is performing well in several markets. When you have already installed a PV system, and you are not planning to buy a totally new inverter, the AC retrofit is a very good solution. It can also be used if you want to add remote control. In this way, you can store energy and use it later. The AC retrofit solution is working very well in Australia and UK, which are currently our largest markets. We also expect a lot from Belgium, where power is very expensive at night.

Bidirectional inverters such as the AC-coupled X-Hybrid offer another layer of functionality for the user – can you describe what these layers are, and how the consumer can benefit?

These devices can charge and recharge now with 10,000 Watts. This means four times the capacity we had before. Furthermore, it is a bit more silent and it is IP65, this means it has reached a technological level that is currently difficult to improve on. It is also more suitable for remote control. The consumer benefit consists of faster charging, even if the device has a larger capacity now. And then, there is the chance now of having also a three-phase device, which was impossible in the past.

How is the third generation X-Hybrid inverter an improvement on the second generation? And how vital is it for SolaX that such products are compatible with all types of high voltage batteries on the market?

I’ll make it simple: the IP65 instead of the IP20, and the bigger loading and unloading capacities. It is clearly more efficient, even because we charge now with almost 400 Volts into the battery. In the past we could do this only with the 48 Volt batteries. So, everything is an improvement in this three-phase device. Actually, we work with a lot of high-voltage battery suppliers, and we are very interested in cooperating with others. But they have to deliver some quality. If quality is not there, the SolaX may be not willing to cooperate.

The SolaX Portal V2 is obviously a vital element, allowing consumers to better manage and view their energy use; but how does SolaX ensure that its customers are educated enough to know how to use this software platform?

We made a plan for this. We are holding webinars, and have created videos for YouTube. But the idea is not that consumers will be able to charge and discharge freely. There will be fixed pre-settings.

The SolaX Battery completes the portfolio. Given that you have partnered with LG Chem to produce the battery, what would you say are its USPs, ie, what differentiates this from other batteries on the market that are already compatible with the SolaX inverters?

I want to make it clear that we don’t produce the battery, or any battery at all. We cooperate with big suppliers such as LG, BYD, and other corporations. We are selling battery under the SolaX brand, but they are all the result of partnerships with these big groups. We sell under our own brand because we want to stay close to our customers, for the devices we have issued. This makes things a bit easier for our customers and those of installers.

What other partnerships does SolaX nurture to ensure that it consistently delivers the best products to its key markets?

On the inverter side, I don’t think that partnerships such as those we have with the battery suppliers will be needed. On the battery side, we are not planning to expand further our cooperation with more providers, it will depend on what kind of products will be available, and which technology innovations we will see in the future.

The expected cost reduction for home battery solutions has been slow, and in many markets there is an argument that residential storage options do not – and may never – make financial sense. What is your view on that?

It will depend on the country. Mostly it will depend on what you have to pay for nighttime power. If this price is high enough, residential storage is viable. It is worthwhile in Germany, it will be worthwhile in Belgium, in UK and Australia. It is all about the pricing of electricity. Even in the Netherlands, if net metering will be eliminated, residential storage may have some chance. Many markets in Europe may offer good opportunities for this segment, and it is not only about money, but also peak shaving and frequency control.

Of course, SolaX’s X1 range of inverters handle the solar side of things; in which markets are you strongest with your X1 range of inverters?

There are markets in which single phase inverters are more important than three-phase devices. UK, for example, is a single phase market. In the Netherlands, instead, we started with single phase inverters, and are now selling more three-phase devices. Most of European markets, however, offer good chances for both kinds of inverters.

SolaX has three-phase inverters for commercial-scale solar installations, so are your batteries and hybrid inverters also compatible for such larger arrays, or do you have plans to introduce larger batteries and hybrid battery inverters?

Yes, they are also suitable for commercial PV. We are still not able to provide inverters for MW-sized projects, but it is something we are planning to offer.

Does SolaX have any products in the pipeline specifically geared towards the rise in E-mobility?

We are observing this market closely, and we are ready because it is the same kind of technology.