09/30/20

  01:09:00 am, by Sophia   , 323 words  
Categories: Energy Storage

Power Start - Giving Storage Systems a Boost

Ensemble lab

Enphase Ensemble Lab in Petaluma

When you are turning on your AC or other large household appliances, you probably don’t think about how much current these systems require to start-up. Yet many appliances are going to be pulling anywhere from 2 to 2.5 times their regular running current to complete the start-up process. This large change in amperage is what we call a “surge current”.

“Surge current refers to a short-term spike in power demand from a particular appliance to get it started…” For example, when your car battery dies– you have to jump it using another cars battery. “Something similar happens for high load appliances in your home when they are turned on,” suggests Enphase.

With the recent fires and grid blackouts– Californians are coming to grips with the pressing need for solar energy backed by smart storage. The current storage systems on the market have struggled to keep up with surge current loads. This makes it nearly impossible for homes to be independent from the grid. Your system may be able to keep your appliances running, but what happens when they stop? 

According to Enphase, “This inability to handle power-hungry appliances has been a challenge for battery storage systems for years… until now.” 

Into that void now comes the new Power Start™ by Enphase. This technology is designed to help reliably start every appliance in your home during a blackout. Power Start’s unique algorithm detects when a large appliance is trying to start back up and automatically disperses the same amount energy over a fraction of a second. 

This technology can be added onto the Encharge 10 battery systems, which have a continuous power rating of 3.84kWs and a surge power rating of 5.76kWs for 10 seconds.

You can click this link to find common surge current demands within different appliances.

The new Power Start by Enphase is a necessary and vital addition to battery storage systems. This technology will improve reliability and independence from the grid.

 Permalink

08/30/20

  03:04:00 am, by Sophia   , 381 words  
Categories: Energy Storage

Utility Scale Battery Storage for the Win!

As energy storage becomes increasingly necessary for California residents, solar developers are pushing the bounds of backup battery systems.

Gateway Energy Storage

Gateway Energy Storage Project, San Diego, California.

LS Power has just created one of the largest battery systems in the world! The Gateway Energy Storage project was finalized and unveiled this year on August 19th in San Diego, California.

The 250MW system will enhance California’s grid reliability, according to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). In addition, the project will greatly reduce energy costs and will contribute to California’s goals to meet clean energy demands. By charging the batteries during off-peak hours, energy can be delivered back to the grid during on-peak demand, which will greatly decrease energy rates for consumers.

Inside Gateway Energy Storage project

LS Power CEO Paul Segal observed: “For more than three decades, LS Power has been at the leading edge of our nation’s transition to cleaner, more innovative energy solutions, and we are powering up Gateway Energy Storage as one more component of this vision.

Through our investments in multiple sectors of the renewables and energy infrastructure space, LS Power is reducing carbon emissions and improving reliability in the markets we serve.”

So, what exactly does this mean for solar integration through the utility?

Grid scale battery storage is a game changer in today’s energy market. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), battery storage is one of several technology options that can enhance power system flexibility and enable high levels of renewable energy integration. Large energy storage centers, like Gateway, can receive solar production from various sources across the gird network. When the energy comes in from a solar power plant, it can be stored in the batteries and later re-distributed to thousands of businesses and houses.

This is a great way to connect the utility with large-scale solar production. Battery storage centers are opening the door for a renewable energy grid takeover. As we steer further away from fossil fuels, we will see a smoother transition into solar applicability. Powering cities with renewable energy is becoming feasible and inexpensive. Companies like LS power are paving the way for solar technology and accomplishing what we once thought was impossible through back up battery storage.

And to think that some people don’t believe you can run a 21st economy with renewables!

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!

08/16/20

  02:00:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 846 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Ranting

On an Inglorious Anniversary...

A year ago we woke up to one of the worst surprises a business could imagine - our website was gone!  Read on to see what happened and our journey over this past year…

A Rude Awakening

Last August the runonsun.com website was humming along, generating thousands of visits each and every month, and from those thousands of visits, the majority of our leads.  Apart from boosting the occasional Facebook post, we generated that traffic without advertising. That success was years in the making, producing a high-quality website and an information rich blog.

OopsBut then, on August 15th, when we went to open our browser, what we saw made me catch my breath - runonsun.com could not be reached?  What did that mean?  I checked with my hosting service - everything there was fine.  I could access my host server, all of our files were intact.  But you could not reach the actual website.  What on earth?

I went to check my email to see if there would be some indication of the cause of our problem.  But then I realized - no email!  We could neither send nor receive emails!  Holy crap, this was serious!  What will prospective clients do if their emails to you bounce?

Unfortunately, that was not the worst of it.  The backbone of our operation is our Client Relationship Management system.  The Run on Sun CRM was written inhouse and we track every client contact from initial website connection or phone call, all the way through final inspection of their project.  We schedule our site evaluations through it, and store for display the data we gather there - and suddenly it was all gone!

Fighting Off Panic

I have to admit - as the realization of the scope of our problem dawned on me, I was in a state of shock!  How could this happen?  As I dug into the technical details, I pieced together what had happened.  The registration of the domain name was on a five-year renewal cycle, so it wasn’t like its status was top-of-mind.  The registration was in my former partner’s name, and apparently someone hacked his email account and got the credentials to our account at the domain registrar.  This person then initiated a transfer of the domain to bizcn.com - a notorious registrar associated with lots of unsavory businesses - and because the confirmation emails went to the hacked email account, they were able to confirm the transfer!

We contacted bizcn.com and explained what had happened.  They didn’t care.  We had our old registrar contact them and explain what happened.  The still didn’t care. To this day, runonsun.com is parked at bizcn.com, pointing to nothing.  

Coming Back

While we tried - unsuccessfully - to get the domain back, we needed to come up with a Plan B to move forward.  The first step was to register a new domain name - runonsun.solar - and point that to our website. Then we had to change the Internet records to allow us to send and receive emails at the new domain.  Then we had to change all of the dozens of places where we had links pointing to the old domain and get them changed to point to the new one.  (The simple way to do this - set up a permanent redirection from runonsun.com to runonsun.solar was unavailable to us since we didn’t have control over the old domain.  Sigh.)

We sent Google new sitemaps showing our pages now at the new domain.  Unfortunately, that didn’t immediately change the search engine results page - we would see searches find our content, only to be linked to the dead domain!  This was going to take time!

A Year Later

So it has been a year, how are we doing?  Well, of course this hasn’t really been a normal year for anyone, now has it?  But this image gives a pretty good sense (click for larger):

The orange line is daily users from August 1 to August 16, 2019, whereas the blue line is the same days this year.  (You can clearly see our traffic fall off a cliff on August 15!)  The summary numbers are brutal: users down 67%, same for total sessions, and pages viewed is even worse, off a whopping 82%!  If they can’t find you, they can’t view you!  One glimmer - average session duration has increased by 27% - which means if they get here they stay longer than before!

 But we are making progress: a Google search for “Enphase Ensemble” produces our blog post, “Hands-On with Ensemble - My Trip to Enphase!” as the number seven result, and on a mobile device it is the first listing under “Interesting finds".  Searching for, “I’ve got solar, why are my bills so high?” finds our blog post excerpted at the top of the SERP as a cherished “Featured Snippet” - thanks, Google!

So that is our saga - we are grateful for those of you who have found us, we hope to be a source of quality information for a long time - to say nothing of the best solar installations in the Pasadena area! 

Meanwhile, please tell your friends about us, we still need to grow back another 67% to break even!

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…

1 2 3 4 5 ...6 ...7 8 9 10 11 12 ... 135 >>

Search

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
Run on Sun helps fight Climate Change
Photo albums software