If you’ve been following Enphase for the past few years, you know that there has always been a big focus on making our products faster and more efficient for our installers. Today’s announcement of our IQ Combiner+™ product should be a reminder that Enphase is still very much working for our valued installers.

The IQ Combiner+ consolidates interconnection equipment into a single enclosure. It streamlines PV and storage installations by providing a consistent, pre-wired solution for residential applications. The IQ Combiner+ is the latest product in the Enphase IQ™ Microinverter System, which offers unmatched simplicity, reliability and ease of installation for solar installers.

What else? We included three features that came directly from customer and installer feedback. The IQ Combiner+ allows for larger systems (up to 15.3kWac), it provides the option for four circuits, and now features swappable breakers.

To keep Enphase systems connected to control and analytics platforms, the IQ Combiner+ comes with an Enphase IQ Envoy preinstalled, and is available with all key communications technology options, including Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or cellular. The IQ Combiner+ also features production metering, with the option to add consumption monitoring for plug-and-play storage, as well as the option for Enphase Q Aggregator installation. That’s a lot of goodies in a single box, and that’s the whole point.

We want to make the solar installation process simple for our installers. Simpler also means faster, which means more installs per day, and we all know what that means. The IQ Combiner+ also makes all new Enphase solar installs ready for storage, which represents the opportunity for an additional revenue stream for installers.

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The diesel generators have fallen silent. No longer is the idyllic island of St. Eustatius tarnished by their drone and black diesel soot. And gone, too, is the need to buy expensive diesel fuel. In November 2017, this Caribbean island – a “special municipality” of the Netherlands – became that little bit more special thanks to the launch of a diesel-free daytime electricity supply.

“The most exciting and certainly the most emotional moment of the project was when we shut down the diesel generators,” said SMA project engineer Hamed Sadri, visibly moved by this memory. After all, this is exactly the moment that he and his international team had spent the preceding two-and-a-half years tirelessly working toward. “The best thing was the sudden silence that descended as the generators were turned off. The light didn’t even flicker as the job of supplying electricity was transferred to the hybrid system.”

Therefore, most of St. Eustatius’ 4,000 inhabitants will not have even noticed this emotional moment – and that is a good thing, because for them life will not really change. For the local electric utility company Statia Utility Company (Stuco), however, this moment represented a milestone: A clean energy supply that will save 1.7 million liters of diesel fuel each year. And, it will also save 4,500 metric tons of CO2 every year. Thanks to this new hybrid system, the little island of St. Eustatius has become a model for the entire Caribbean region.

Diesel-free in two expansion stages

The first expansion stage went into operation back in spring 2016 after just nine months: 1.89 MWp of solar power combined with 74 SMA Sunny Tripower 25000TL-30 inverters, the SMA Fuel Save Controller and the Sunny Central Storage 1000 helped to reduce the consumption of the diesel generators by as much as 800,000 liters of fuel annually.

In the second expansion stage, the project partners doubled the solar output to 4.15 MW and increased the battery capacity to 5,900 kWh. The key component is the newly developed Sunny Central Storage 2200 battery inverter with grid-forming characteristics. This allows the diesel generators to be shut down fully automatically without compromising the stability of the frequency in the utility grid. The SMA Fuel Save Controller is responsible for real-time energy and power management and synchronizes diesel and battery operation intelligently and fully automatically. Within milliseconds, the system compensates for the PV array’s power fluctuations caused by, for example, the exceptionally fast-moving clouds in this region in particular.

This means that the diesel generators can be switched off completely during the day. This is unnoticed by electricity consumers but has huge benefits for the electric utility company and the region – and a pioneer for more diesel-free zones worldwide.

And talking of fast-moving clouds, the system thankfully withstood hurricanes Irma and Maria, which swept across the region in September 2017, leaving total devastation in their wake.

System profile: St. Eustatius solar hybrid system

The vision of reducing St. Eustatius’ dependence on fossil fuels was realized by the local electric utility company Statia Utility Company, the highly committed team of engineers from SMA, SMA Sunbelt Energy and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Customized hybrid system for a fossil-fuel-free electricity supply

  • PV system: 4.15 MWp
  • Storage capacity: 5.9 MWh
  • PV inverters: 74 x Sunny Tripower 25000, 2 x Sunny Central 1000
  • Batteries: Samsung lithium-ion NCM
  • Battery inverters: 1 x Sunny Central Storage 1000, 2 x Sunny Central Storage 2200
  • Solar energy fraction: 46%
  • Open- and closed-loop control: SMA Fuel Save Controller
  • Fuel savings: 5,500 liters daily, 1.8 million liters per year
  • CO2 savings: 4,560 metric tons per year
  • Project developer: SMA Sunbelt Energy GmbH
  • Electric utility company: Statia Utility Company (STUCO)
  • Financial support: Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs

One integrated hybrid system with:

✓ Frequency (deviation 0.005 Hz)

✓ Voltage (deviation 0.4%)

✓ Spinning reserve provision

✓ Energy management

✓ Power management

✓ Automatic synchronization of “diesel on” and “diesel off” mode

✓ Robust design concept with built-in redundancy (communication loss, default behavior)

✓ Short circuit clearance within milliseconds

✓ Hot standby­_uninterrupted power supply in case of diesel genset failure

✓ Over 100% solar power penetration during daytime

The heart of the project: the Sunny Central Storage 2200 battery inverter with grid-forming characteristics

The heart of the project: the Sunny Central Storage 2200 battery inverter with grid-forming characteristics

About SMA Sunbelt

SMA Sunbelt Energy GmbH is a 100% affiliated company of SMA Solar Technology AG headquartered in Germany. The company was founded in 2014 and focuses on off-grid, solar hybrid and battery-based projects. SMA Sunbelt offers SMA’s off-grid components to international clients and additional services including customized turnkey installations of PV-Diesel hybrid and battery based applications.

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There was great excitement coming from South Australia recently as the Tesla 100 MW generation capacity, 129 MWh storage battery commenced operation within the electricity grid. This is part of a much-needed upgrade to the grid such that it can better support the high level of renewable energy now available across the state. South Australia has been hit by a number of high profile blackouts over the past two years. While these were the result of various sets of unusual events unrelated to renewable energy deployment, the presence of a very high level of renewable energy had left the grid less robust, leading in turn to the blackouts.

 The State Government has been under pressure to rectify the situation and the installation of a battery facility is one of the measures implemented, along with additional natural gas capacity. The addition of the battery also offers the opportunity to better understand the underlying cost of the renewable energy transition.

 Tesla Battery SAFrom the outset, the cost to consumers of renewable electricity generation has been hard to pin down. In all cases, solar PV and wind have been added incrementally to an existing grid, typically powered by some combination of coal, hydroelectricity, nuclear and natural gas. More recently, that incremental cost has fallen to very low levels, in some cases to just a few cents per kilowatt hour. These very low costs have been highly visible in the media, but do not represent the true cost for the system as a whole.

While very low marginal installation costs are great news for renewable energy deployment, the rapid increase in available capacity in some grids has played havoc with the existing power generation business model. When the renewable energy is available it reduces the dispatch of existing generation, thus cutting into the profitability, and possibly viability in extreme cases, of these operations. However, intermittent renewable energy cannot exist alone on the grid, so it is effectively undermining its own existence by driving existing generators away. This is a well-known issue and is being tackled in some jurisdictions with new business models; for example, the use of capacity payments to existing generators to ensure the viability of their facilities. This increases the overall cost of renewable electricity but doesn’t change the low marginal generation cost offered by additional renewable energy added to the grid.

In additional to capacity payments, the grid operator can provide further backup generation and energy storage, such as in South Australia. In the case of the latter, Tesla have built the 129 MWh storage facility, located adjacent to an existing 99 turbine, 315 MW wind farm. The Tesla battery is reported to have cost A$50 million. If it operated as a back-up to the windfarm itself, it would provide less than 30 minutes of storage, so this isn’t true backup for extended windless periods. Rather, the battery is there to address shorter term grid fluctuations and natural gas is added as a reliable back up for periods of low renewable generation. The need to keep the battery charged also reduces the output of the wind system for periods of time, however, that energy isn’t lost, just time shifted (apart from storage and transfer losses).

Exactly how the total cost of supply changes depends entirely on the situation for each individual grid, but that cost is greater than the marginal cost of renewable energy supply, even when expressed as a levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). This higher system cost for renewable electricity is how we should view this resource within a grid.

It’s not often that India and Hawaii are found in the same category, but in fact these two very different regions share the same drive when it comes to energy - to make power accessible and affordable for their respective populations.

First, let’s look at India.

Powered by a single national grid, India boasts a vast land mass with millions of small villages, often long distances apart. With an estimated 300 million people living without power, energy is at the top of India’s national agenda. The Indian government’s “Power for All” policy promises to supply electricity to all 18,452 villages by May 2018. From this number, 14,204 villages have been identified as viable for inclusion into an extension of the existing grid, and 3,449 villages are to be electrified through off-grid power projects.

As a credit to India’s bold electrification targets, and the suitability of solar as a distributed generation source, the country has gone from having a nearly non-existent solar market within two short years to having approximately 16.5 GW of installed capacity. Nearly 7 GW of that have been installed in 2017 alone.  Much of this solar generation capacity has come in the form of large, utility-scale solar installations; however, electrifying rural India will require the installation of thousands of small-scale micro- and mini-grids. To wit, each of these new installations will feature a unique mix of generation sources – intermittent and firm, as well as storage.

Now, let’s look at Hawaii.

The island state of Hawaii is powered by four separate electricity grids with no interconnection between the islands. Therefore, Hawaii must achieve its goal of supplying affordable and reliable energy within the confines of its current grids. With a long history of using diesel generation capacity for power, Hawaii’s transition to renewables came largely out of necessity. Geographic isolation and the absence of alternative local energy resources meant that Hawaii had to either import energy in the form of petroleum and coal, or build out its own renewable energy sources. In 2016, approximately 26% of Hawaii’s energy came from renewable sources.

Hawaii had to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels to provide its residents an affordable and reliable energy supply. Distributed generation in the form of a mix of residential solar, community solar, wind, and storage provided the solution.

In 2015, with more than 500MW of solar coming online in just 5 years, Hawaiian Electric (HECO) became concerned about the stability of Oahu’s grid. HECO engineers considered the prospect of having to manually reprogram 800,000 solar microinverters across 51,000 homes, a task which was estimated to cost in the tens of millions of dollars. In working with Enphase, the two companies’ engineering teams could remotely connect to and adjust inverter settings. So, literally with the push of a button, Enphase upgraded 800,000 of its microinverters remotely, roughly 60% of Oahu’s distributed solar capacity at the time. No truck rolls. No field calls. In terms of Oahu’s total energy mix, these microinverter systems provide up to approximately 140MW, or nearly as much power as the state’s largest conventional power plant.

“Enphase Energy successfully upgraded the operating behavior of approximately 154 MW of its smart microinverter capacity installed in Hawai'i to achieve interim ride-through settings for customers on the islands of O’ahu, Hawai’i, Moloka’i and Lana’i". - Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

The unprecedented event made headlines  around the world.

What happened in Hawaii was made possible by our built-in, proprietary two-way data-over-powerline connection used to monitor every one of our microinverters. In 5-minute increments, Enphase Microinverters send data to our powerful bi-directional communications gateway, the Envoy. This device communicates not only to our microinverters, but also sends and receives data to and from the grid to ensure that voltage ranges are adhered to. With the power of a software-defined inverter, Enphase can ensure the overall stability of the grids in which they operate - now and in the future. This is how you future-proof your solar investment. Applying the same technology in India, with its thousands of commercial and large-scale projects, means that solar asset managers who choose Enphase will minimise their operations and maintenance costs, while local utilities will benefit from smart devices that can adapt to what the future might demand. We think this is a smart approach.

India is approaching an inflection point

It is indeed an exciting time as India hurtles toward its renewable energy targets. But such a massive endeavor does not come without risks:

  1. How will India’s grid/s and microgrids cope with various new types of energy generation sources?
  2. How can grid stability be ensured over time?

These are not simply questions for utilities. These are also questions for the electricity generators, and ultimately, for the companies that produce the equipment that interacts directly with the grid. There is no question that those technologies must be adaptable over time.

As solar becomes a larger part of India’s energy mix, it is essential that its grid is equipped with higher-functioning solar systems; solar must be easy to manage and be managed remotely.

At Enphase, our technology is designed from the ground up with this big picture in mind. Enphase systems are designed to be good neighbors in an ecosystem that includes utilities and the grid. We also know that demands and requirements change over time, so we don't just develop products that are currently state-of-the-art - we build products that are flexible enough to be effective for decades of service. That’s how we define the term ‘future-proofing.’

India now has an opportunity to future-proof its own grid by integrating intelligent and flexible technologies into its portfolio of distributed generation assets. It is entirely possible that India will not only reap the economic benefits of a modern, distributed, remotely managed grid, but also could quickly become a global leader in renewable energy and smart grid management.

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