Published on March 21st, 2016 | by Kyle Field25
Sunrun Raises The Bar With New Solar & Storage Offering
March 21st, 2016 by Kyle Field
Sunrun is currently the leader in residential solar installations and is leaning forward into the next big expansion for the industry – storage. This month, Sunrun has launched a new integrated offering called Brightbox that allows customers to keep the power generated by rooftop solar panels on-site vs pushing it out to the grid, which they can then use after the sun goes down.
The product name is a combination of bright, like the sun aka the huge “fusion reactor in the sky” as Elon Musk calls it – and box for a box of batteries. Roll those two together and you have Sunrun Brightbox. The product sits at a key junction, as solar and storage are natural friends, with both putting out DC current but trying to work nicely with the home’s AC power system. To translate the power, an inverter is required and can be leveraged for both systems.
There are currently 3 primary categories of residential solar systems and each must utilize batteries differently.
- Single Inverter Systems – This was the standard for the first generation of residential solar systems. As the name indicates, they utilize a single inverter for the system, which must be sized for the number of panels that are installed. This keeps the install simple, and leverages scale with all of the power running through a single inverter. On the downside, because of the way single inverter systems are wired, if one panel in a single inverter system is producing less power due to shade, dirt, or lower panel quality, the output of all of the other panels in the system are limited to that same level of output. In a single inverter setup, adding a battery is easy as it can just be wired into the system on the DC side of the inverter (the same side as the solar panels).
- Micro-inverter systems – The next iteration of residential PV systems came with micro inverters, which attacked the limitation of single inverter systems by giving each panel its own inverter. This allows for it to maximize the power each panel puts out and results in a smaller inverter – hence the name micro – but at the expense of more potential points of failure in the system. In micro-inverter based systems, there is essentially no DC side of the solar circuit so adding a battery almost always requires a new inverter for the battery. Read this to mean extra cost.
- DC Optimized systems – The newest iteration of inverter technology brings together all the economies of scale that come with a single system inverter while also maximizing the output of each panel with the addition of “DC Optimizers” for each panel. Trina Solar is actually working with partners to integrate the DC optimizer into the back of the panel, which will make installation that much faster. Adding a battery to a DC optimized system is as easy as a normal single inverter system as the battery can just be bolted onto the DC side of the inverter.
Getting back to Brightbox, it attacks the complexities above by taking into consideration the full design of the new system, the unique features of the home, the angle of the roof, and specific utility requirements, to design the system with storage that best suits the customer. Brightbox is now available to Hawaiian homeowners which, due to high energy prices are likely to have the highest savings potential, and will expand nationwide later this year. Sunrun has also partnered with the local utility to get prioritized installation as part of Hawaii’s Self-Supply Program.
Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich shared a bit about how the product came about:
“Innovation is in Sunrun’s DNA. We pioneered solar-as-a-service, which removed the high upfront cost and complexity of home solar and we’ve done it again with energy storage so homeowners can use clean, affordable power day and night. Sunrun remains focused on providing customized solutions that give families more choice and helps them save on energy.”
Much like Sunrun’s solar offerings, Brightbox is available through a monthly or prepaid lease, a variety of financing, or old fashioned cash-in-hand, which will likely offer the best long term payout for customers that are able to drop the change.
For more information about Sunrun BrightBox, check out the official product page and the press release. Stepping back for a broader look at Sunrun, Brightbox is just the next step in making earth into a “planet run by the sun.”