If you want to maximize your solar energy system’s production, finding the best solar inverter is as important as the solar panels you choose. For an “uncomplicated” roof – one that faces south and has no gables, chimneys, or other obstructions that can cast a shadow – the best solar inverter for you may be a standard string inverter. However, more than half of new residential solar installations are using module-level power electronics (MLPEs) like power optimizers and microinverters to maximize electricity production.
In today’s fast expanding solar industry, there are already hundreds of different panel models and designs available to the modern day solar shopper. A growing number of premium technology brands (think Panasonic and LG) have entered the residential solar market, leaving homeowners across the country wondering: what’s next? What new technologies can we expect for solar panels in 2019? In this article we will discuss all of the new developments with photovoltaic (PV) panels, including new aesthetics like clear solar panels, bi-facial (double-sided) panels, efficiency improvements and solar inverter integration.
You may be looking for cheap solar panels available in order to really cash in on solar power. And sure, when you install solar on your home or business, you can save thousands on your electricity bills. But going solar isn’t automatically cheap: buying solar panels to install on your roof typically costs thousands of dollars. It’s no wonder that the cost of solar is among the most important considerations for today’s homeowners. If you’re thinking about going solar and worried about prices, you’re probably wondering: what are the best value solar panels and will solar get even cheaper?
If you want to make sure your solar panel system is operating as efficiently as possible, you are probably considering either power optimizers or microinverters (collectively known as “module level power electronics,” or MLPEs). In the United States, SolarEdge is the leading power optimizer manufacturer, and Enphase leads the pack for microinverters.
Designing a “storage-ready” solar panel system is the first step to ensuring that you’re set up for success when you decide to move forward with a solar battery for your home or business. EnergySage spoke with Matt Allan, Product Marketing Manager at Enphase for his perspective on storage-ready solar.
What is the value proposition for a “storage-ready” solar product for residential customers?
While ‘storage-ready’ solar products might be interesting, residential solar customers are encouraged to select home energy solutions that provide an integrated system. Such a system will combine solar energy production, consumption monitoring, and storage out of the box, even if storage is added later. As with many consumer electronics and devices, solar consumers should select home energy systems that are built for plug-and-play simplicity; adding storage to a solar system should be as simple and flexible as possible. So yes, ‘storage-ready’ is generally good, but ‘built for native integration’ is better.
Who should consider installing a storage-ready solar option now?
The US market for solar + storage is varied and dynamic. Fifty states each have different utility districts (some have several), and each district has nuanced and different approaches to energy production and the integration of distributed energy resources.
In Hawaii, for example, the local utility has introduced a zero-export rate scheme, which makes solar + storage significantly more attractive for new solar systems. In many US states, utilities are adjusting the value of net metering for consumers. Solar consumers are well-advised by working with a solar professional to understand the mix of solar and storage that is right for them, given their economic goals and the status quo dictated by the local utility.
What criteria do you recommend shoppers look for when considering their storage-ready options?
System sizing for rooftop solar is relatively simple. The main question involved is, how much energy does the homeowner want to produce? To optimize sizing for a system with solar generation and energy storage, especially where the homeowner will pay time-of-use rates for electricity, installers must address energy pricing variables. It’s not enough to simply match storage system size with the size of the rooftop solar system. From a system choice perspective, the following are important criteria:
- All components of the solar + storage system should work together seamlessly
- All components of the solar + storage system must be able to be monitored and managed from a single, integrated control system.
- The control system must include native consumption monitoring
- Since every house is different, storage systems must be flexible enough to right-size the storage capacity. When homeowners avoid the one-size-fits-all fallacy of storage devices, they avoid over-purchasing storage.
- Use systems and devices that are smart grid ready, or ones that can be easily upgraded for advanced functionality
How is Enphase’s storage-ready offering different from other options on the market?
The Enphase Storage System is built around a modular architecture, delivering smaller blocks of storage so our customers always get a competitive price of installation. Storage is truly a ‘one size fits none’ product category. Starting with 1.2 kilowatt-hours of capacity, you can take the first step to improve home energy management now and easily expand the system later as your family grows or you add an electric vehicle.
The Enphase Storage System is designed around smart about electricity usage. The system supports time-of-use utility pricing and energy self-consumption right out of the gate. It can also deliver added value through electricity rate arbitrage—storing up energy when rates are low and discharging when rates are high—and grid services that qualify for compensation, such as frequency regulation.
Safety was a primary consideration in the design of the Enphase Storage System. That’s why we selected battery cells that meet the highest global safety standards, cells that minimize risk of thermal runway and do not catch fire even if punctured by a needle, crushed, or overcharged. Like the Enphase Microinverter System, the storage system also does not expose consumers and their families to high-voltage DC power.
The Enphase Storage System is a fully integrated solution that can deliver faster installation, easier commissioning, and a more satisfying user experience. The Enphase Storage System follows a three-step installation process, one that enabled a NABCEP certified installer to complete a 4.8 kWh project in 1 hour and 40 minutes. There is no separate inverter purchase required, and the Enphase AC Batteries integrates seamlessly with the communications gateway, the Envoy, used for the PV system. The Enlighten platform provides extensive visibility and control so users can monitor performance and interact with a wide range of smart appliances, including those already on the market and those that have yet to arrive.
What types of storage options (e.g. battery systems) are compatible with your offering?
The Enphase Home Energy solution is natively (plug-and-play) compatible with Enphase AC Batteries. The Enphase AC Battery product is compatible with any PV system.
Solar plus storage is a rapidly advancing technology that makes it possible to both generate and store solar energy onsite for backup power. Solar batteries can also help homeowners and businesses maximize solar energy use onsite. The cost of installing a battery is high today, but prices are falling rapidly. As a result, many property owners are installing a solar panel system now and planning to add energy storage later on.
How can you ensure that you’re set up for success when you decide to move forward with a solar battery for your home or business? Designing a “storage-ready” solar panel system is the first step. EnergySage interviewed four solar inverter manufacturers to offer more insight into the concept of “storage-ready” solar. The highlights and key takeaways from each manufacturer are below, and links to each company’s full range of responses on storage-ready solar are at the bottom of this article.
If you’ve been shopping around for a solar panel system, you may have heard of microinverters (from companies like Enphase and SolarBridge) and power optimizers (from companies like Tigo and SolarEdge). These devices – collectively referred to here as Module-level Power Electronics (MLPE) – are quickly gaining popularity in the US as an alternative to conventional string inverters.
In this article we take a look at this emerging trend and examine whether these technologies are the best option for all homes.