Delta Energy Systems business development manager Angus Hawke talks about the opportunities that lie ahead for the international inverter giant.

 

What is the biggest market for Delta: residential, commercial or utility-scale?

In Australia, the PV market consists mostly of residential installations, which account for over 60% of the overall market. In other parts of the world the PV market mostly consists of commercial and utility scale projects, which is where Delta’s greatest strength is when it comes to solar. Delta is the first company to produce wall-mounted 30kW, 50kW and 80kW string inverters. The larger inverters from Delta are particularly popular in places like India, where Delta has around 23% market share.

What’s your outlook for 2017?

We expect to see a 15-20% growth in the small to medium commercial market and reasonable growth of the large commercial and industrial sectors, which is where we expect a lot of our growth to be. In residential, we expect to see an increase in the smaller retrofit market, although a slight overall reduction. Delta anticipates our market share in Australia to increase next year, with the introduction of the new mini-range and our 80kW inverter, which is already sold in other parts of the world.

Is it hard getting the message about renewable energy through to commercial-industrial customers?

It can be difficult, although there is no doubt solar and other forms of renewable energy will play an essential part in providing their energy needs, either directly or indirectly. One of the main challenges is how to effectively educate commercial customers in a way that allows them to make an informed decision which is not based purely on price. In order for the customer to make an informed decision they need to have a good understanding of the technical aspects of the product, service support and what’s going to give them the best return on investment.

What is holding the commercial-industrial sector back from uptake?

One of the main hindrances to commercial and industrial solar market is still the inadequate grid infrastructure, which can struggle to cope with the variability of solar energy as it has only been designed to support fairly consistent levels of generation. Another obstacle is the time it can take to get a project off the ground, from the initial concept stage to completion – which is often held up by unnecessary barriers and red tape.

How is the E5 Delta-Panasonic residential system going?

Demand for the new E5 system is growing steadily, even though it has only been available in Australia for a short time. The E5 hybrid package offers a large number of advanced features, such as a number of pre-programed operational modes, which can be used to optimise the benefits to the home-owner according to their requirements. The high-capacity 6kWh Lithium-ion battery pack has been designed in conjunction with Panasonic to ensure high levels of safety and performance and Delta is one of only a few companies to offer a complete hybrid solution from the one manufacturer.

Have you had any feedback from installers about the E5?

The feedback has been very positive, with installers liking the inbuilt features, build quality and relatively straightforward installation. Another benefit is the optional colour touchscreen energy manager unit. This allows the user to control the inverter and battery functionality in incredible detail. For example, the user can pre-program up to two years of operation, including different battery charge and discharge times and even when to swap from one of the operational modes to another. The smart meter also allows for visualisation of data, such as production, consumption and energy exported to the grid.

Do consumers understand the different operating usage modes?

Most installers are not yet familiar with the different operation modes of the Delta E5 and the benefits these can offer to their customers. Essentially there are eight different modes: Peak Cut mode, Selling First mode, Self-Consumption mode, Discharge First mode, Charge First mode, Forced Charge mode, Without Battery mode and Stand-Alone mode. The Stand-Alone mode is one of the most important as it automatically powers critical household loads directly from the photovoltaic array or battery when the grid goes down. One of my favourite modes is the Peak Cut mode, which helps reduce peak demand and subsequent cost from the grid by discharging the batteries at a predefined “peak level”. For example, when the home load exceeds the peak level set by the user, the battery will discharge to assist the home power usage. This allows the stored energy to be used at times of the day when savings are at their greatest.

Do you have any launches planned for 2017.

We will introduce an exciting new range of residential string inverters, which will have the lowest start up voltages on the market for string inverters, significantly improved features and class-leading efficiencies. They will also be a fraction of the size and weight of the existing models and come standard with wi-fi, built-in ground fault alarm and remote firmware updating capabilities.