Enphase deal widens solarcity's scope

New home management opportunites are behind the new partnership between solarcity and Enphase Energy. 

Andrew Booth, chief executive of solarcity, says the firm will install Enphase mic-inverters and supporting communications systems which will allow it provide increased residential services. 

The technology is already a standard part of solarcity's solarZero panel package because it provides the data needed to help further reduce customers' energy use. 

"Although solar systems are the anchor technology, the Enphase technology allows us to work with homeowners to drive down their power use." 

Booth says the technology provides the same data on power as smart meters. But he says that data has often proven difficult to get from retailers. 

"The Enphase partnership, for us, gives that granular detail on exactly how homeowners are using power because at the moment we don't have access to that smart meter data."

Data from the system is used by solarcity to help homeowners make better energy use choices, including pointing them towards smart appliance options.

Booth says combining energy efficiency with solar is a wider opportunity to increase New Zealand's electricity generation to 100 per cent renewable.

solarcity is currently trailing an LED lighting package for its solarZero customers to measure the impact on energy consumption. It is also looking at other energy services it can offer going forward.

"Solar is just the first step. Other product lines will be lighting packages, heating packages and the like. These will all be designed to provide further value for our customers and increase their energy efficiency," Booth says.

"We know energy efficiency is a large part of that."  

solarcity and Enphase are both expanding as the take up of solar power continues to rise. 

Data from Electricity Authority reports that at the end of April there was more than 22 MW of solar capacity connected to the grid. 

solarcity is currently training and installers around the country to meet demand for the solarZero system product it launched earlier this year. 

Product trainer and field applications engineer of Enphase Asia-Pacific Duncan Macgregor says the deal with solarcity is part of the firm's plans to grow its New Zealand presence. 

The California-based firm is expanding its Asia-Pacific design and engineering centre in Christchurch by about 35 percent as it moves into battery technologies. 

Established in 2011, the centre provides research and development in conjunction with the firm's Silicon Valley headquarters. The firm last year had about 20 power electronics engineers, technicians and systems engineers in its New Zealand team. 

A battery storage solution to integrate with its inverter range will be available in New Zealand and Australia next year from Enphase. 

The firm's Christchurch engineers are contributing to the project, which is being carried out in partnership with Japanese battery manufacturer Eliiy Power. 

Macgregor says further details on the lithium-phosphate battery will be released later this year. 

Booth says the battery is likely to be added to solarcity's offering once it is available. He thinks it will be very competitive with other storage solutions. 

Macgregor says the level of demand for Enphase inverters in the New Zealand market has been surprising, especially as the firm has only recently appointed a strategic account manager for the country. 

In September the firm signed a distribution deal with solar equipment provider YHI New Zealand but had no in-country sales support until last month. 

Christ McArthur former Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority project manager joined the firm in early April as its strategic account manager for New Zealand. Previously sales and support were handled from its Melbourne Asia-Pacific headquarters set up early last year. 

"We've been very surprised and overwhelmed by the level of demand in New Zealand," Macgregor says. 

"We have really seen the market come up very quickly. The uptake of those products has been very positive." 

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