Australia’s score of more than a million homes with solar PV generation is very impressive, says SolarEdge founder and vice-president, marketing and product strategy Lior Handelsman, but the electricity market today is totally different to what he expects it will look like in 10 years.
A rapid uptake of storage, innovations in system technology and continued evolution in regulations will guarantee that.
“Storage installations will grow at a high rate, but we are starting from very low numbers,” Handelsman says. “I don’t think there’s going to be an explosion within three years … but I think within 10 years it’s all going to be PV plus storage.”
As more electricity is generated and consumed behind the meter, all eyes will be on grid stabilisation – which is a hard beast to manage in Australia.
“It’s harder to stabilise the grid in Australia than it is to stabilise the grid in Europe,” he says, citing Europe’s dense grids throughout the continent, where “rings of power” can be connected between countries and states. “Australia is not built like that. It’s very big, very fragmented and very challenging.”
SolarEdge makes a small DC-to-DC converter that can be attached to individual solar PV modules to optimise performance and provide data for panel-by-panel monitoring.
Other companies sell power optimisers, but SolarEdge sells them coupled with its own “special inverter”, which is smaller and, Handelsman says, more efficient. “There are a lot of constraints that we remove by adding these power optimisers.”
SolarEdge inverter systems can be coupled with Tesla and LG batteries.
At home and at work
The value proposition offered by SolarEdge systems varies between residential and commercial applications, he says. “In a utility-scale system you would get 2-5% added energy, in a residential system you could get 2-25%.”
In utility scale the biggest value is in monitoring the status of every module. “Because we allow longer strings we save almost half the amount of cabling in combiner boxes, which in a commercial system is a huge amount of cabling,” he says.
The fine-tuning capabilities that come with using a string inverter also allow for systems to be designed using fewer panels. “Theoretically, yes,” he says. “You can get to the same amount of energy with less modules, but that is not necessarily what installers want; they want to install a bigger system so they can make more revenue.”
Rooftop residential systems can be a headache, with multiple facets and varying planes, “but with SolarEdge we don’t care. If you have a different roof plane and you want to put two modules there, go ahead and do it. We will harvest all the energy out of them,” he says. “That flexibility in design is so important in residential.”
As long as it makes sense for the homeowner in terms of maximising self-consumption, it’s a “win-win,” says Handelsman, who spoke to EcoGeneration during the All-Energy conference in October.
Over the horizon
Harmonising some of the local standards to some of the more proliferated global standards would help the local solar PV market, he says, referring to the electrical code, inverter certification and safety standard and inverter interconnection standard. “But I realise standardisation and regulation is very slow-moving.”
In Israel, Handelsman’s home, solar struggles against regulations and bureaucratic barriers that are tilted against it. Gas, coal and diesel are the primary sources of energy there, but he says there are hints solar will gain favour.
System stability is a rigid requirement in the East Mediterranean nation. It’s not as though energy can be bought from across the border. “There is no-one to trade with,” he says. “Israel is like an island.”