With Solar Power International canceled again this year, we decided to collaborate with BayWa r.e. on this three-part Power Forward! series to discuss all of solar’s pressing issues. Over the next three months we will pick their brains about everything from supply chain challenges to running a multi-state solar business to the new products catching our eye. We’re kicking things off with Kate Collardson and Aaron Bingham, product experts at BayWa r.e. and hosts of the Solar Tech Talk podcast, to chat about energy storage products to watch, solar panel recycling and local policy issues.
SB: What were looking forward to at SPI this year?
Kate: The LGBTQ mixer was going to happen again, and it’s a bummer that we’re not able to meet and hopefully get a more robust affinity group going in our industry. (FYI, for those looking to create an affinity group for solar’s LGBTQ+ community, head here: seia.org/solarpride)
SB: What is your top focus these days as product managers at BayWa r.e.?
Aaron: Almost certainly storage. There’s a lot of activity in other product segments as well, but in terms of interest, the most complexity is being introduced by folks having the ability to add energy storage to their traditional PV solutions, which is enabling them to offer a whole suite of new products and services to their customers.
SB: Any products in particular that you’d like to highlight?
Aaron: Generac had planned on doing a fairly significant product launch at SPI this year (which they just announced online) they are they are launching a new PWRcell manager solution as well as a DC-coupled generator that’s capable of recharging the batteries and making it so that those Generac energy storage solutions are able to function off-grid for a lot longer than they typically would be. We’re seeing a lot of really interesting and exciting technology come out of other powerhouses like Enphase and SolarEdge. SolarEdge’s Energy Hub and backup interface are constantly getting updated with new features that are going to enable customers to access more of the power from their batteries.
Kate: BYD is a battery manufacturer that we carry, and they have come out with a new series their HVL product. It has a larger capacity than their previous product and that pairs with some of the SMA Sunny Boy storage line.\
SB: When it comes to modules, I was mostly curious about recycling. Are contractors asking about this and secondly you know what is BayWa r.e. doing on this front?
Yes, contractors are asking about it and we’re excited that we have an answer to the question. We have a partnership with a national recycler that is offering the pricing that they give to us to our contractors. That’s something that if folks want to find out more, I’d encourage them to reach out to their sales rep and find out more information. (Also check out solarrecycle.org)
SB: Should solar contractors try to get more involved in the policy side of things and being advocates? And what are some ways they can do that?
Kate: I want to highlight what’s going on in California and some of the big changes that are happening there. I think it’s especially important for contractors in California to get involved in CALSSA, which is um raising money as quickly as they can to try to fight some of these efforts [by the utilities] that really could be detrimental to our industry. We saw a devastating ruling a couple of weeks ago about who can install storage systems, and that’s something that’s going to have a big impact on our industry in the state.
Aaron: I also want to call out CALSSA. … They continue to make sure that the solar energy industry has a voice at the table that’s deciding how net energy metering policy should look going forward. The most recent draft of NEM 3.0 policy proposal would have been hugely detrimental to the distributed renewable energy industry. It would have imposed monthly costs on system owners that would have been imposed retroactively on folks who previously had signed agreements with their utility that guaranteed the power they were selling back would be purchased at a certain rate. The NEM 3.0 proposal also slashed the payback terms for any power that was sent out from a residence or commercial property to the grid to be used by the utility. That was a huge risk, and the industry was able to stare it down with strong advocacy and lots of professional voices lobbying California’s Congress to make sure that they made the right decision.
On the next Power Forward! …
Next month we will be chatting with BayWa r.e.’s Preston Booker to dive deeper into running a solar business in 2021 and how to best maneuver around today’s supply chain issues. For more from Aaron and Kate, be sure to check out and subscribe to the Solar Tech Talk podcast.
Have you checked out our YouTube page?
We have a ton video interviews and additional content on our YouTube page. Recently we debuted Power Forward! -- a collaboration with BayWa r.e. to discuss higher level industry topics as well as best practices / trends for running a solar business today.
Our longer running side project is The Pitch -- in which we have awkward discussions with solar manufacturers and suppliers about their new technology and ideas so that you don't have to. We discuss everything from residential rail-less deck attaching and home solar financing to large-scale energy storage value stacking and utility-driven new home solar + storage microgrids.