ElectrIQ Power is a Palo Alto, California–based company offering a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, a charger, battery management, a DC to AC inverter, and a smart DC-DC converter in one system. Kevin Manning, Chief Revenue/Strategy Officer, answered some questions about the energy storage technology for CleanTechnica.
1. Your energy storage system includes an inverter and a converter….for people who are interested in lithium-ion batteries for their home solar power system but are unfamiliar with battery technology, can you explain how the inverter and converter work, and why they matter?
Inverters and converters are electrical devices that “convert” electricity for its intended use. See the energy storage system block diagram below.
Solar panels collect sunlight and strip off the atoms, resulting in a flow of electricity. This electricity is in the form of a Direct Current (DC). To be usable in one’s home, an inverter is used to convert this electricity to an Alternating Current (AC). One of the benefits of “energy storage with solar” is the solar energy is useable by the home and batteries when the grid is down.
The inverter we use is a Bidirectional Hybrid Inverter. Because it is a “hybrid” inverter, it is capable of taking energy from the system’s internal DC buss and put it to either the load or the grid or both at the same time. Because it is “bidirectional,” it is capable of taking energy from the grid and charging the lithium ion batteries.
Our inverter is also a remarkably smart inverter designed specifically to our specifications. This is a critical part of making Lithium Ion batteries safe. The special features of this inverter know, for example, the battery state of charge, state of health, cell to cell balance, temperature, etc. and adjusts how it charges and discharges to keep the batteries within safe operating conditions. There will be no system on the market more integrated or safer as a result.
Converters are much simpler and usually much more efficient than inverters. They convert Direct Current (DC) to Direct Current (DC). Our system uses two types of converters. One for the solar panels. It is a Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) converter to maximize the energy output from the solar panels to the energy storage system’s internal DC buss. The second converter is used to charge the lithium-ion batteries (sometimes just called a battery charger).
2. The warranty is 2 years with a 10 year option… what does the option include, and what is the cost?
We are currently refining and defining our warranty program and anticipate this being closer to a 10 year warranty. This would be the norm given the expected life of 10+ years for our product. The cost of the warranty will be included in the price of our product.
3. What is the cost of your system?
Our product offerings will allow for flexibility in the size of a system which could range from 7.5KwH up to 37.5KwH (or more). We expect the 7.5KwH pricing to be between $12,500 to $15,000 MSRP. After California state incentives and Federal tax credits, the price will drop to approximately $3,000.
4. What is the cost of installation?
Installation costs will vary depending on the location and local laws/practices as well as the skill of the homeowner. If installed by an electrician or solar installer, we would estimate installation costs to be approximately $1,200 +/ We see ‘storage’ becoming a common component in any generic solar installation and we believe solar installers want to include it in their package deals which will lower the individual component installation costs.
5. Who is qualified to install it?
Qualified installers include trained electricians who specialize in alternative energy or national/regional solar companies. Given the simplicity of our design, savvy homeowners with good mechanical and electrical skills could also easily perform this installation with training.
6. Is there any maintenance, and if so, what is required?
There is no maintenance required.
7. Who is your competition, and how does your offering differ from theirs?
There are a handful of competitors in this space focused on residential consumers. Most storage companies are targeting commercial markets. Tesla is the best known in residential, but they are currently providing only a battery which needs to be paired with an inverter. There are some other players that have entered the space, most recently Sunverge (but without a software management system), JuiceBox (but without an inverter), and JLM Energy (batteries and inverter are in separate boxes).
Besides being a fully integrated, all in one solution that not only functions very efficiently and looks sexy, our key differentiators are focused on safety, state of the art efficiency and ease of use. We are partnering with world class organizations on our components, both of which are extremely concerned with ensuring safety for our consumers. In terms of “ease”, our solution will be very easily connected to the grid and/or renewable energy source (solar) which is very important for our installers. Our user dashboard will be very user friendly and provide plentiful information to make better informed decisions about energy consumption and since our batteries and inverter are all in one box, we eliminate an installation step and its cost.
8. What does your battery management system do?
The battery management system knows important status on the batteries and communicates the information to the smart hybrid inverter and battery charging system to keep the batteries safe and prolong their life. Some of the parameters it monitors are battery state of charge, state of health, cell to cell balance, temperature, capacity and internal resistance to name a few. This integrated system ‘mothers’ the battery back and insures safety. All the components of the system have been designed to work in unison unlike our competition where any inverter or battery may be used but with the risk of something going wrong between the disparate components.
9. What is the learning curve for a consumer who is interested in solar power and wants to know more about energy storage… how long does it take a new customer to learn to operate your system?
The system will initially be set up by the installer, generally. Our system also has high level functions for someone who is not familiar with solar power or energy storage. For example, the user could choose to operate the system in the “backup mode” where it will configure itself to make the most efficient use of renewable energy and provide battery backup when the grid is down. Some of the other operating modes are Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS), Grid Zero and MiniGrid.
Additionally, we have created a friendly user interface on the system and website. One of our primary engineering goals was to translate complex issues in plain English well enough for a nontechnical person to understand. We have really made an effort to create a user interface (like the very popular books) “energy storage for dummies.”
10. You say your system can be used to charge a battery when electricity rates are low, to avoid paying for it when rates are high. Does the system do this for you, or do you manually charge it when you know there is less demand, like late at night?
The beauty of our system is that the user sets high level parameters (like how long should the system be able to provide backup power to your home) and the system learns your consumption habits, knows the weather forecast (when the sun is producing electricity) and calculates battery levels accordingly. The system will also minimize electrical cost; on its own it will draw energy from the grid at night (cheaper rates), store it, and utilize it when you need it most (typically when rates are higher).It will also know if the system is part of a solar installation to insure operation and that 100% of the solar tax credit can be taken on the energy storage system.
11. By using a battery system to store electricity to use when rates are high, would a customer expect to save a little money each month, and if so, how much?
This depends on a number of factors including, the size of the system, the price for a respective customer’s electricity in their area, the primary purpose of the system and their energy usage habits. When taking these factors into consideration a customer would expect to save a little money each month. This could be anywhere from a few dollars to several hundred dollars every month depending on how the system is set up, size of solar installation and energy usage.
12. Could you charge an EV at home using your battery storage system?
If an EV needs to be charged during a utility’s peak demand period versus off peak, a battery storage system can greatly reduce the demand on the grid. It can also reduce the cost if the user is paying more for peak rates.
Image Credit: ElectrIQ
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