Top takeaways and tidbits from Intersolar 2024

solar-games

Intersolar North America continues to be my personal favorite solar industry conference. For one, the setting and timing is great (San Diego in winter > anywhere). The news and email flood isn’t as overwhelming as the main RE+ conference — but it’s not devoid of news either. In fact, a few tidbits and innovations I learned about last week could be serious gamechangers. Here are all of the big takeaways and news tidbits I scribbled down at ISNA 2024.

Fully insured, 100% PV inspection is here

sinovoltaics

The Dutch-German PV quality assurance innovators at Sinovoltaics are expanding into the United States and establishing offices. This expansion couldn’t come at a better time considering …

  1. The supply chain shifts of overseas module manufacturers required to be compliant with UFLPA or avoid AD/CVD tariffs, and
  2. All of the new PV factories being built in the United States.

What’s cool? Traditional electro luminescence (EL) quality assurance testing only uses a sample of the modules coming off the production line — something like 20 out of 18,000 modules for a 10 MW project. Sinovoltaics, on the other hand, inspects 100% of the purchased modules using its SELMA (Sinovoltaics EL Mass Analysis) software.

An inspection of a sample of modules vs. a 100% inspection is no small thing. “It is quite common to go to the most famous Tier 1 [factories] and to find projects where we reject between 1% and 3% of modules, which is quite a lot,” says Arthur Claire, head of technology at Sinovoltaics. “If you think about a 250 MW project, that means we potentially reject between 2.5 MW and 7.5 MW of it.”

SELMA performs an image-based automated digital analysis of every module as it rolls off the production line, inspecting for microcracks and other cell-inherent defects. Since 2020, SELMA has been implemented at all the major Tier 1 solar manufacturers. In 2023 alone, more than 4 million PV modules were inspected.

And hey, if you don’t trust AI inspection tools, SELMA is backed by the industry’s first quality guarantee underwritten by Munich Re, a global insurance powerhouse. The Sinovoltaics’ Zero Risk Solar service means modules procured by Sinovoltaics’ clients are guaranteed to be defect-free before shipping. If any warranty claim is filed within three years, Sinovoltaics will pay liquidated damages to cover costs, such as de-assembly, manpower and logistics.

True home solar potential in seconds

We got the scoop on this in The Pitch (above), but this is worth reiterating. EagleView, a leader in geospatial technology, is harnessing its data and analytics (which covers 94% of the U.S. population) to launch SolarReady.

SolarReady provides a definitive answer to the question, “Is this home suitable for solar?” In a few easy steps, solar installers can easily quantify the solar potential of a home (or an entire block), as well as create proposals that include stunning visualizations and detailed PV system production modeling to help educate homeowner prospects.

Solar companies can now seamlessly filter potential leads based on their solar potential, ensuring resources are allocated efficiently and effectively, empowering sales with address-specific data.

Home energy storage brand evolution

Home and off-grid battery supplier Bluetti is making a big move in b2c solar sales. The company officially debuted Bluetti Solar+, which will take interested solar + storage customers all the way through the proposal and post-sale process. A dedicated Bluetti Solar+ project manager will oversee the design, permitting process, paperwork completion, buildout, troubleshooting and inspector quality assurance.

Bluetti is the ESS supplier, of course. For the solar panels, Bluetti will only be sourcing Tier 1 modules. The warranty for the system would be through Bluetti.

“No one will be saying ‘this isn’t our responsibility,” says Francisco Wang, VP of business development. Solar+ is his brainchild, and he sees the potential to close several hundred deals a month once this gets rolling.

What’s cool? The only thing Bluetti won’t be doing is the installation — and that’s where Solar Builder readers come in to play.

Bluetti

Bluetti is looking to expand its nationwide installer network to handle the installation of all these Solar+ sales. Solar+ is initially launching in Texas.

“The batteries are designed to be very easy to install. Everything comes pre-crimped,” says Phillip Fischer, director of business development. “Installers can set up the battery in about 30 minutes. The other great thing is our price. We’re already getting a lot of leads from customers, so we’re trying to expand our installer network, get these installers certified, and connect them.”

For more on the finer points of the Bluetti ESS, check out this episode of The Pitch:


The new-to-me energy storage provider I discovered at Intersolar 2024 is ROYPOW — but they are far from new to energy storage.

ROYPOW Technology started up in 2016, founded by Jesse Zou, who had nearly two decades of energy storage experience. Since then, ROYPOW has been supplying batteries for a ton of other applications, from golf carts to material handlers to marine applications. 

What stood out most: ROYPOW has six offices in the United States: California (main office), Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Indiana and Pennsylvania. That U.S. square-footage is unusual in the home battery space, and it does allow solar installers to purchase ESS directly from ROYPOW and save bit on price.

“We have worked with certain distributors around the United States, but [installers] can get a very good price from us, and a very affordable price for their customers,” says Peter Xiao, senior sales manager at ROYPOW.

RoyPow ESS

ROYPOW launched its all-in-one dc-coupled residential energy storage system (power output of 10 kW to 15 kW) at last year’s Intersolar. DC-coupling produces up to 98% of conversion efficiency and battery expansion allows up to 40 kWh. Very soon, possibly February or March, the ROYPOW ESS will be UL listed.

New at this Intersolar show is the ROYPOW X250KT DG ESS hybrid solution, its entry into the commercial & industrial standalone ESS market. This innovative solution can work in tandem with diesel generators to provide uninterrupted power and substantial savings in fuel consumption for off-grid applications.


isna-solar-games

Congrats to Aloha Solar Power

Congratulations to the 2024 Solar Games Champions, Aloha Solar Power! It was a tight competition, with a great showing from our runner up, Michigan Solar Solutions, as well. Enjoy that giant $10,000 check.


The scoop on PPA for Virtual Power Plants exclusive to sonnen

sonnen battery

Shout to Blake Richetta, Chairman and CEO at sonnen, Inc. USA. He is the first person I’ve met who is legit excited for everything NEM 3 has to offer in California. Reason being: grid services and time of use arbitrage is exactly what sonnen’s battery was designed for when it launched in Germany way back in 2008.

“They didn’t even consider backup power as a thing then,” Richetta reminds me. Sonnen has been operating a true virtual power plant, and performing a full stack of grid services for the German wholesale market since 2010. “You now have 144,000 batteries being dispatched and steered for as many as 11 real grid services.”

In California, Richetta says NEM 3 customers could expect to see electric bill reduction similar to, or exceeding the previous NEM 2.0 expectations.

None of that is necessarily news. What is new: All of that will soon be bundled in a unique financing model by Solrite. The two are billing it as the world’s first Virtual Power Plant PPA, or “VPA.” Sonnen and Solrite’s VPA offers new solar + storage customers (in California, Puerto Rico and New York) an alternative to cash payments or loans. The program accepts a wider range of qualifying FICO scores than other PPAs, helping make solar + storage products accessible to customers at more income levels.

ABC ready to bring roofing distribution concepts to solar

ABC Supply

ABC Supply been around since 1982. It is one of the largest roofing distributors in the country (1 in 3 roofs in the entire U.S. has been “loaded” by an ABC truck, I’m told). They started to branch into solar after California’s solar mandate in 2017; they officially propped up a Renewable Energy Department in 2023. What are they doing that your typical solar distributor is not? Well, for one, using the truck in that photo to deliver and place solar panel pallets on the rooftop of every jobsite. That’s expected in roofing, and ABC is delivering it to solar.

“Electric distribution and roofing distribution are two different styles of distribution. We’re bring the expertise of what we’ve been doing for 40-plus years in roofing to rooftop solar,” says James Mason, ABC’s VP of renewable energy. He points to the map they have standing tall at the booth with dots scattered over 36 districts in the U.S. and notes that the ideal solar contractor for ABC will utilize that warehouse space. “What about the smaller guys that can’t or don’t want to take a container? That’s what we can do.”

Product-wise, they have every vendor you’re looking for. “We have a pretty thorough vetting process, and we want to make it easy,” Mason says. “Every brand we’re bringing on are big companies that are solvent, that have been around for a long time and are going to stand by their product. We’re not trying to be everything to everyone; we’re trying to be everything to a few people.”

Vanadium batteries ready to flow

Invinity
This is a 38 kWh module from Invinity

Alternatives to lithium-ion batteries in the MW-scale range get more scalable each Intersolar and Energy Storage North America. This year we chatted with Matt Harper, cofounder and chief commercial officer, of vanadium-flow battery company Invinity. Harper and friends founded Invinity back in 2014 to take the vanadium-flow battery tech they were familiar with (big tanks and containers assembled on site) and evolve it. “We wanted to package it and productize it in a way that’s going to be suitable for renewables in general and solar in particular.”

So far, so good. Invinity has ~125 MWh of product operational or in delivery, thanks in large part to the modularity of the product, which has improved economies of scale and price point and all that. On price, for projects that do about a MW, Invinity is roughly equivalent on a capital cost basis with lithium, according to Harper. When you get into the hundreds of MWhs, lithium’s scale still has a sizable advantage.

Invinity’s growing fleet provides another big benefit though: “That fleet has given us a tremendous dataset in terms of information coming back from our customers, in terms of how this product is actually working — driving that continuous improvement,” Harper says. And that continuous learning about operations and performance helps better answer the question: What does it cost to deliver a MW hour out of these batteries over its useful life? So: how do we calculate levelized cost of storage (LCOS).

The big difference with LCOS vs. the more common solar acronym LCOE [levelized cost of energy], is LCOS can be radically different depending on how you operate the battery. Invinity’s vanadium-flow battery can cycle multiple times per day — and that’s how they want you to use it.

“We want to put as many MWhs through this battery in a day as possible,” Harper says. “That means you’re essentially taking that total cost of ownership and dividing it by a lot more MWhs than you’d get out of a similar lithium battery. That means we can hit a much lower number.”


Finally, some nifty new systems and product nuances …

Briggs and Stratton 6.6

Briggs & Stratton Energy Solutions debuted its new 6.6 battery, which might have the new title for fastest, most foolproof battery stack installation. See those blocks? They all click into place like LEGOs. No wiring between them, no dip switches, and no pin outs. The whole system has true closed loop communication as well. There is no complex inverter programming. No way to reverse polarity. The Intelligent control box automatically identifies number of batteries and the inverter and then selects settings. Stack up to 19.98 kWh of power per 3-stack and up to 6 battery stacks per system, to deliver 119.88 kWh. This will be available starting in March.


FranklinWH Home Power

FranklinWH announced some small but mighty updates to its Franklin Home Power solution.  FranklinWH’s aGate solution requires less additional hardware on a homeowner’s wall and provides increased control over Smart Circuits through the FranklinWH App. Additionally, improvements include an integrated metering feature for energy management systems, enhanced black start capabilities including auto-load shedding for improved success during black starts, along with expanded options for generator integration. FranklinWH also added the Lifting Dolly to its product lineup, which allows for independent wall mounting of the aPower by one installer and requiring only two installers for the entire Franklin Home Power system installation.


S-5! showcased its new MLPE Mount. The S-5! MLPE Mount provides a universal method for attaching module level power electronics (MLPE) directly to solar PV module frames — both optimizers and microinverters. The goal is simplify wire management. This provides the versatility needed to better handle module-to-module wire management and electrically bonds the equipment together to easily comply with grounding requirements.

The MLPE Mount is ideal for use with all S-5!’s solar attachments and can be used in rail-based installations or paired with the PVKIT rail-less solar mounting solution for direct attachment to metal roofs. A unique tab feature makes installation quick and easy, and less likely to rotate during installation, eliminating hassle—one hand can easily position the MLPE device on the frame, while the other hand tightens the bolt to secure it.

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