The Pitch: Generac’s DC generator, load management device and whole-home nanogrid vision

Generac made three big additions to its PWRcell line of products recently. On the latest edition of The Pitch, a Solar Builder side project, we chatted with Generac product manager Jeremy Niles about two in particular — the PWRgenerator and the PWRmanager load management device to understand how they work, and how they essentially round out a grid-tied, resilient, whole home solar + storage nanogrid with just one battery.

Q: A DC generator that connects directly to a battery and solely charges that battery is definitely new and possibly game changing for a grid-tied system. How exactly is it set up to function and complement PV plus storage systems on the grid?

If you’ve ever installed a generator you know that the hard part is not dropping off the truck, situating it or even plumbing the gas lines. The AC side connections are one of the tougher parts because you have an automatic transfer switch, and you’ve got to make room in that panel for a large power source. In this case, all you have to do is just run positive, negative and ground wires back to the inverter. That’s it. Plug and play.

Q: You’re going to be able to function as kind of your own little nanogrid, essentially, correct?

Yeah that’s right. A little higher level than how the actual installation works: you’ve got customers; they’re interested in storage, and people who are interested in storage, they want to get a lot for their money.

When you kind of get to the expectation setting phase of the sales process, people are disappointed and say I think I’ll just go with solar for now. I think that’s a pretty common story. When you add the PWRgenerator, you can add days and days and days of autonomy and backup power without having to oversell on battery storage.

So you can sell a battery that is sized for day in day out load shifting or cycling to do some peak avoidance type operations, and then back that up with a generator that will keep it topped off through even the gnarliest longest lasting power outage.

Another one of the big product announcements you’ve had is the PWRmanager, which is a load management device that handles 12 circuits and two thermostats, which is key, so an entire home. … What’s different about the PWRmanager compare to the SMMs you were using?

The SMMs were inline devices. You look at your electrical panel, you’ve got circuits running out all over the home, and you would basically sever one of those circuits and drop the SMM in line with that circuit as a way to add some automated load control to it.

PWRmanager is our second generation load management solution, and it’s got a lot more brains. It’s got a lot more capacity for load management and it’s just going to keep on getting smarter. So, yeah, it’s got 12 120-volt relays. Each relay, these are custom by the way, with a built-in current transformer, that does a number of things. Any circuit you connect, whether 120 or 240, because you can double these relays up to control 240-volt loads. SMMs were only for 240-volt loads, they were really only for dumping the biggest loads in the home — a sub panel, a hot tub. These are going to allow you to have circuit by circuit control of most every circuit in the home.

Right from your phone you’re able to then override and control circuit by circuit what’s on, what’s off based on your own momentary priorities.

Hear much more in the full interview:

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