Tag: "Enphase Ensemble"

08/20/20

  01:44:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 761 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Climate Change, Residential Solar, Energy Storage

Behind the Meter to the Rescue!

It’s hot here in California, fry an egg on the sidewalk style hot, and the grid is feeling the heat.  The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) - the entity responsible for managing the grid - has issued warnings about possible outages, and even our local utility, Pasadena Water & Power, sent out emails to customers warning that cutoffs might be necessary.  The extreme conditions have prompted some extreme reactions, blaming the State’s shift to more and more renewables as the cause of the problem.  But overlooked in all of this is the contribution of local solar power systems, “behind the meter,” that have greatly improved the present situation, and with more aggressive utilization of storage, could do even more.  Here’s our take…

Blame Game

Let’s start by looking at what is causing the present problem. As we all know too well, we are in the middle of a pandemic and conditions in California have been depressingly awful, with a 7-day moving average of new cases at nearly 9,000.  As a result, a lot more people than usual are working from home, driving up electricity loads as we struggle to remain sane, and if possible, cool.  That’s been tough, as the entire state is in the grip of a week-long heat wave, with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees, and in some places, above 110!  All of that has created record demands for electricity and the grid has struggled to meet that need, with spot prices hitting all-time highs.

For those opposed to California’s efforts to “green the grid,” this provides an opportunity to go on offense. Cue Republican Assemblymember, and Vice-Chair of the Committee on Utilities and Energy, Jim Patterson:

You can’t run a 21st century economy that’s the fifth largest on the planet with wind and solar. I have been warning over and over again that the policies coming out of the democrat-controlled legislature and Governors’ office are creating the conditions for blackouts and brownouts and here we are seeing the evidence.

Wow, just how wrong can you be?  Let’s be clear: no 21st-century economy is going to survive the century if we don’t figure out how to do so with solar, wind and other, non-fossil fuel based sources of electricity.  And despite the predictable piling on from climate change deniers, there are multiple paths ahead for getting to an all-green electric grid.

Behind the Meter to the Rescue!

All of the stories about the blackouts, however, ignore the contribution - both present and future - of behind the meter resources, that is, local, rooftop solar.  Our friends over at CALSSA sent out the following graph that helps to make those contributions concrete:

Behind the meter solar and storage contributions to the grid

There’s a lot going on here so let’s break it down.  The brown curve is the actual reported demand data from CAISO on August 14th.  But without the contributions from the million plus behind-the-meter solar installations the actual load would have been significantly greater, as shown by the yellow line.  That is capacity the ratepayers of California did not have to purchase, but still benefited from its production.  Moreover, as the yellow line shows, the peak demand is actually at 3 p.m., but thanks to behind-the-meter installations, the peak on the grid is both lower, and later, a fact not often explained to the public.

The vertical lines mark the period last Friday that was subject to rolling blackouts - from roughly 7 to 10 p.m.  As the merger of the yellow and brown lines around that time indicate, solar production is no longer a factor.  But there is still a role to play as storage begins to be deployed with ever greater frequency.  CALSSA’s policy director, Brad Heavner (who created this illustration), notes:

If California builds 3 GW of additional energy storage systems at customer locations that can be dispatched during grid shortages, it would further trim evening peak needs. This is shown in the figure as the dotted blue line. CALSSA estimates the state can achieve this level of build-out within the next five years with state policies.

This is certainly doable, but it will take ongoing financial support, and preferably a more transparent rebate program than the present, byzantine SGIP program.

Ironically, the utilities are pushing their customers into purchasing more storage, as the public’s patience with grid outages - whether from rolling blackouts, or utility initiated public safety power shutoffs - is at an all-time low. As sophisticated products like the Enphase Energy Ensemble Storage system become available, more and more solar consumers will become storage consumers as well.  Once again, the ratepaying public will benefit from those investments, and hopefully all of us will be able to keep our cool!

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08/14/20

  02:55:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 828 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Energy Storage, Solar Repairs

Building on a Legacy: Enphase Opens Ensemble to Earlier Generation Micros!

On Tuesday, August 11, 2020, Enphase sent out a notice to its top installers alerting them that starting in December, the Ensemble Storage System would support earlier generation microinverters and not just the IQ series as had been originally announced.  We contacted Enphase to learn more, and here is our report…

Some Background…

Last November we wrote about the coming Ensemble rollout.  In describing how Ensemble could be incorporated with existing systems we wrote:

First, you need to have IQ microinverters.  At least as of the initial rollout of this system, the older microinverters are not supported.  That means that the M and S-series of microinverters have to be replaced to IQ-series microinverters to work with Ensemble.  (I do not know if this will change in the future, but it is the guidance that we are getting at this time.)  It is possible that there will be some sort of replacement program (like Enphase did with the legacy M-190 customers), but I have not gotten any word about such a plan yet.

As we were told by Enphase CEO, Badri Kothandaraman, at SPI last year, it was important for Enphase to focus on a successful launch of Ensemble, and the way to do that was to concentrate on pairing it with the more capable IQ series of microinverters.  It had been disappointing news, but understandable given the challenges of bringing a product as technically sophisticated as Ensemble to market.

So I was more than a bit surprised when I saw the announcement from David Ranhoff, Chief Commercial Officer at Enphase, that Ensemble would be able to support M215 and M250-based systems as of December!  Of course this raised nearly as many questions as it answered, so I reached out to Enphase for more details.  

What We Know Now

I was able to speak with Utsav Ghosh, Senior Product Manager, about the details behind the announcement.

Our first question was: What about the S280’s?  They are more capable than the M-series, so are they included?  Sadly, no, not at this time.  Given that the M215’s and M250’s are the largest segment of the non-IQ installed base, they generated the greatest number of inquiries, and so they got the staffing attention.

I remarked that given the relatively short window between when Ensemble was available for the IQ micros and when it will be available for the M-series, why not just say that they would be supported.  The answer, it seems, is that in refining Ensemble, they realized that it would be easier than previously thought to fold in the M215/250’s.  This, of course, gives me hope that the S280’s won’t be far down the line.  Squeak, squeak!

Enphase M215 microinverter will now work with Ensemble Storage System  Enphase M250 microinverter will now work with Ensemble Storage System 
Enphase M215 Microinverter is Eligible…  As is the M250 to work with the Ensemble Storage System! 
Alas, the S280 is out of the picture, for now! 
Envoy S

Our next question concerned communications - the M-series micros communicate via Power Line Communications (PLC) via the neutral and hot conductors.  The IQ-series does not bring a neutral to the roof, so it communicates PLC from hot to hot.  How does this get resolved?  

Turns out quite easily, assuming you have an Envoy-S, like the one on the right.  So how do the IQ8 microinverters in Ensemble communicate with the Envoy?  As it turns out, the same way that they do in an IQ system - via the add on Comm Kit that adds Zigbee capability to the Envoy-S.  The even better news is that Comm Kit is part of every Ensemble Storage System, so there is no additional cost for M-series systems over IQ systems!  Yay!  (The Envoy-S will need a new software version, but that is a free download.)

Our next concern had to do with speed issues: the M-series micros just aren’t anywhere near as computationally powerful as their IQ cousins.  Would the seamless backup functionality promised with the IQ series still apply?  Yes, we were assured.  Cool!

Which brought us to our final question: What ratio of legacy inverters to IQ8 inverters will be needed to allow the microgrid to operate?  Recall that with the IQ series we are presently being told that the ratio is 1.5:1, that is, an Encharge 10, that has 12 IQ8 micros inside, can support up to 18 IQ 6 or 7 micros on the roof.  (While we are hoping to see some movement on that front, that is the present design guidance.)  So what will the ratio be for the M-series?

Great question - no precise answer as of yet, other than “it will be more restrictive."  There is testing ongoing to establish precisely what those limits are, which is why the availability is being cited for December and not now.  Obviously we will be following this closely and will update you when we know more, watch this space!

I want to thank Utsav Ghosh for being so responsive and generous with his time.

And I especially want to thank Enphase for responding to the cries of their clients in getting this much-needed functionality addressed.  Great job, folks!

Now about those S280’s…

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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.

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