Anyone who thinks of Enphase Energy as just a microinverter company should think again. While microinverters form the backbone of the company and are a huge boon to both solar installers and customers, Enphase has steadily been expanding beyond just that offering into the widening array of home automation options. As VP of Strategy Phil Farese told us at Solar Power International last week, “Enphase is becoming more of a software than a hardware business.”
Enphase made several announcements at SPI. Especially interesting is their launch of the next-generation Envoy-S gateway, plus other components of the Enphase Energy Management System. Envoy-S serves as the control of the system for solar generation, energy management, and storage.
The company also plans out to roll out a battery offering in 2016. The monitoring function of Envoy-S will be an important part of this system, because it will enable right-sizing of batteries for each individual situation.
Envoy-S fits into the company’s goal of making “solar simple and energy smart so that clean, affordable energy can be accessible to everyone.” Enphase, Farese said, is building a systems solution, with the aim of improving customers’ lifestyle and providing them more choice.
Reliability and affordability, Farese said, are pillars of the company. Enphase microinverters exemplify these qualities. While they have traditionally been more expensive than string inverters, he noted that they last longer, result in a lot more production, and provide superior reliability. Those factors, he said, make the microinverters affordable. Plus, he added, “they’re just easier to put on a roof.” That also lowers installation costs.
Envoy-S builds on that reliability and affordability, providing energy usage insights, remote update capabilities, and load management. Its revenue-grade metering gives users a better understanding of what their solar system is producing. It’s all part of Enphase’s systems solution.
“As a key part of our intelligent home energy solution, Envoy-S provides consumption insights that allow consumers to manage their energy use more efficiently,” said Stefan Zschiegner, vice president of product management for Enphase Energy, in a press release. ”In fact, the Enphase Energy Management System is enabling new partnerships that result in an advanced ecosystem for the clean energy economy.“
In addition to revenue-grade metering, Envoy-S features consumption monitoring, integrated Wi-Fi and flexible networking options, and optional AT&T cellular connectivity via AT&T’s Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
Along with Envoy-S, Enphase is introducing:
- The AC Combiner Box, which maximizes the features and benefits of Envoy-S. The company says the device helps cut solar installation time by as much as 50%, and reduces interconnection and communications equipment costs by as much as 20%. The AC Combiner Box is an outdoor-ready enclosure built to withstand exterior weather conditions.
- Enphase Mobile Connect, a cellular modem with service provided by AT&T IoT technology that delivers consistent and independent Internet connectivity. To ease the process of installation, Mobile Connect is integrated into Envoy-S through the AC Combiner Box. That means that installers can now ensure reliable Internet connectivity is consistent and reliable independent of the Internet setup in the home. This feature came out of customer concerns about what happens when their own Internet service is intermittent.
- An Installer Toolkit mobile app for smartphones and tablets. The toolkit helps installers quickly and easily configure an Enphase system, commission Envoy-S, and confirm a successful solar installation.
Enphase made some other announcements last week: an operations and maintenance offering that guarantees 100% system availability for both microinverters and modules, and a collaboration with SolarWorld to jointly develop a new generation of AC solar modules for the worldwide market.
The company is broadening its reach and stepping up partnerships, like the recent one with Nest, as it ponders the extent to which it will build a consumer brand. It’s certainly making inroads into the brave new world of the smart home — an area Farese acknowledged is “very exciting, and also very unknown,” and one that holds “a ton of opportunity.”
We can expect more announcements to come from Enphase of integrations with smart home systems.