Friday, March 23, 2018

Batteries in the Spotlight at 2018 Niagara NABCEP Solar Conference


The number of battery vendors at this year's NABCEP solar professionals conference was noteworthy as was the introduction of Morningstar's soon to be released 48V battery-based 4K inverter lineup.  The emphasis on battery-based direct current systems was ironic, given the location was Niagara; well known as the place where modern utility-scale alternating current had its debut.  Mr. Edison would have been pleased.

One observation frequently made was that the solar industry, after years of being dominated by battery-less grid-interactive systems, is now seeing its future closely aligned to battery storage systems.

Sonnen 4-kW Battery System for Backup and Load Shaving (includes an 8-kW Outback Inverter)

Lithium battery manufacturers present included Hawaii's Blue Planet, Germany's Sonnen and Vancouver's Discover AES.  I am frequently asked about lithium alternatives to lead-acid batteries which have been the mainstay of off-grid and backup systems for years.  In short, the technology is here, but any adopter may be on the bleeding edge as systems have a steeper entry cost and an unproven track record. Could be good, though!

Something else that could be good is the new 4-kW 48V inverter from Morningstar.  This is a company that has built a really nice line of solar charge controllers over the last 25-years.  I've used their PWM and MPPT equipment on both solar and microhydro systems.  This is their first "whole-house" or big inverter.  Notable among the features include:
  • 18W idle loss (this is way low - like 47% lower than an Outback FXR unit)
  • 120V or 120/240V
  • Integrated control panel
  • Space for six relay blocks (ie, generator start, vent fan turn on, on/off loads, etc...)
  • No cooling fan
  • Dummy-proof bypass switch
  • Breaker panel for code compliant installations 

 Morningstar's 4-kW Inverter with the Covers Removed