Solar Power International landed in Salt Lake City, Utah this year and CleanTechnica was on the ground meeting with the change makers, the disruptors, the doers, the movers, and the shakers. We’ve been diving into some of the companies we talked with, but having covered SPI for several years now, we wanted to highlight one of the newer arrivals at the show: electric vehicles.
On the surface, electric vehicles might seem like a tangential technology, but when you start to peel back the layers, the logic behind the move is clear:
- Rooftop solar represents a significant source of power generation in the home and requires an inverter to transform the power from the DC produced by the PV panels to the AC power used in the home.
- Similarly, DC electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE), colloquially known as EV chargers, convert power from the home’s AC network to the DC needed by the batteries in the car. Most residential EV chargers leave this task to the car, but the opportunity to leverage a single inverter in the home to convert power from AC to DC before it enters the car could eliminate the need for a dedicated inverter in the car.
- Finally, the batteries in home energy storage solutions store DC power, but need to ingest and regurgitate AC power for use in the home which necessitates an inverter.
Combined, the load from an EVSE, the production from a rooftop solar system and the bidirectional energy flow of a home battery can comprise some of the largest circuits in the home. Designing home energy management systems around these three systems has the potential to lay a robust, renewable foundation for the smart home of the future.
The opportunities to optimize the energy flowing between solar, storage, and EV chargers also exists at all levels as we look outside the home to public charging, distributed energy resources, energy storage at increasingly larger levels, and fleet charging. These three systems are reshaping electrical grids around the world as we speak as utilities look for ways to integrate more renewables into the grid while adding increasingly larger numbers of higher power EV chargers at the same time.
At their core, it is the inverter that is increasingly becoming the smart hub of the home. Generac is already building its PWRcell inverter that can service both solar and storage functions on the DC side, with intelligence to manage the energy flowing from solar to storage, into the home as AC and back.
SolarEdge has taken the concept the furthest, starting from its roots as a solar inverter company then adding the capability to intelligently charge an EV last year. This year at SPI, SolarEdge flaunted its ever-evolving inverter tech, integrated EV charger that charges the car on sunshine, and new devices that extend the reach of the system into the home to control the hot water heater, HVAC system individual plugs, and switches. SolarEdge-branded batteries are coming onto the horizon as well, but are not currently in the product family.
Generac and SolarEdge are not alone in the push to build out the smart home of the future, but represent the tip of a surging wave of innovation that is riding the rising tides of rooftop solar, energy storage, and electric vehicle charging. It is increasingly pushing beyond the silos of their respective verticals towards the unique vision for the clean tech home of the future that each company has laid out.
At shows like Solar Power International, those technologies, those dreams, those visions for the future are put on display for all to see. Some are fully fleshed out, ready for the market products while others are relegated to blank plastic boxes or even sketches, with the passion still waiting to sprout into a fully formed product. Changemakers meet behind closed doors and over late night after hours drinks to let their combined ideas cross pollinate before heading back to the lab to try the next great thing.
The Center of the Cleantech World
Solar Power International has always been a forward thinking conference, having been founded on the promise of solar power back in 2004 when module prices were high and the real pressure of the climate crisis was not yet upon us. Fast forward to today and the Solar Power International has been brought under the broader rallying cry of North America Smart Energy Week (NASEW).
Energy Storage International, Wind Energy International, Hydrogen Fuel Cells International, and the Smart Energy Marketplace & Microgrid were brought in alongside the longstanding solar show as symbiotic showcases. They share common technologies, objectives, and in many cases, customers, making the North America Smart Energy Week show a hotbed for clean tech activity in the region.
We met up with dozens of companies new and old at NASEW in Salt Lake to stay abreast of the latest innovations, expansions, and evolutions in the space. You can tune into all of our Solar Power International 2019 coverage here or just keep coming back to CleanTechnica to take it in as we’re laying it down in realtime.