This week at the Solar Power International 2019 Conference in Salt Lake City, local company Humless announced a partnership with technology giant ABB Group.
ABB introduced the companies’ collaboration on the new Universal 10/4 Residential Storage System powered by Humless’ groundbreaking 48V Universal Energy Management and ABB’s UNO-DM-TL-PLUS line of residential inverters.
The reason the Humless Universal Energy Management system is so groundbreaking is because it enables solar power users to “take charge” of the power their solar panels generate, Humless CEO and founder Glenn Jakins said.
Traditionally, solar panels produce direct current, DC, that has to be converted to alternating current, AC, in order to power a home, Jakins explained. Converted power hooked up to a city’s electrical grid isn’t power that can automatically be used to power a home, so typically, homes have to use a second inverter. Then, there’s the issue of charging batteries — not all inverters work with all batteries.
The Humless system enables homes to essentially create their own grids by taking power from home solar panels, from the grid, from a battery, and anything that makes electricity, both AC and DC. Then, homeowners can choose where to distribute the power — to their home, to charge a battery, or back to the city electrical grid. Besides enabling homeowners to control what they do with the power their solar panels produce, the system also works with every single inverter and every single battery, Jakins said.
“When you had solar before, you could only sell back power (to the grid) during the day. That’s not when the utility company needs the power,” Jakins said. “Now, you can store it and sell it back to the grid when it’s needed and when you can make more money which makes it a much more economically viable model.”
The ability to store generated energy also prevents waste. In the past, Jakins said, if the city’s electrical grid went down — solar users still suffered the consequences because their solar power was converted and returned to the grid before powering their homes. And, any additional power solar users might have generated was simply lost. Because the Universal Energy Management system allows solar users to store excess power, there’s less energy waste, and solar users aren’t left without power when the city’s power goes out.
It seems like a solution that someone should have thought of earlier — but Jakins explained that, because the American grid system is so well built, nobody in the states has really ever seen the need to store solar energy, unlike people from places like South Africa, where Jakins grew up.
“When you live in a country like South Africa ... guess what happens every single day? The power goes down for about four hours in almost every single home,” Jakins said. “And further north, it’s a lot worse than that.”
Problems with power in South and North Africa are what originally inspired Jakins to create small, silent “humless” solar power generators. Humless solar power generators are used on several game reserves in South Africa, Jakins said, where they are used to power hotels and reserve accommodations, powering anywhere from 70 to 150 small chalets. From there, Jakins said it was simply a matter of figuring out how to turn that technology into something that could be used in residential and commercial.
Until recent years with rising fire hazards in California, however, Jakins said most Americans didn’t have to deal with losing power several hours a week; but in Northern California more and more residents are dealing with “brown outs” when the power grid is shut off to prevent fire. Plus, Jakins said, more and more people are becoming aware of their carbon footprint.
“So now we’re starting to see pressure for that, and energy storage is becoming a major issue,” Jakins said. “What we’ve got now is ... a system that’s completely expandable where you can add batteries and you can add inverters to the system.”
As mentioned before, the system works with any battery and any inverter.
“We’re battery agnostic. We don’t care who you believe in on batteries. It doesn’t matter who, our system will work with their batteries. And we’re inverter agnostic,” Jakins said. “Our system will allow every single home to be able to get energy storage ... now (homes) can have energy storage ... and it can run the house directly off the solar panels instead of the grid.”
According to a press release from ABB, the system also works with any solar panels.
“This largely plug-and-play energy storage system for residential solar installations is another step in the evolution of renewable energy for consumers,” Franklin Sullivan, executive vice president and lead market manager for ABB Electrification business in the United States, said. “The unique versatility of this system allows installers to recommend a tested, single unit upgrade to solar systems that have no battery backup, thus providing a more intelligent energy management system.”
Jakins explained the system uses both software and hardware that basically “talk” to every kind of inverter or battery on the market and allow the user to determine what they want to do with the energy. Paired with the ABB UNO-DM-TL-PLUS line of digitally enhanced inverters, the press release states users will have options to match grid needs/requirements such as load shaving, time of use, generator auto start and smart outputs; power over these choices will ultimately lower electrical costs and extend battery life.
“Control your power. Take charge,” Jakins said. “Now you don’t have to rely on the grid.”
The Universal 10/4 is currently for sale on the Humless website for $20,150.