New Solar Panel Unites Battery, Inverter, Smart Software Into One Unit


The strength and viability of a solar system comes down to the sum of its parts. Thus far, the components have been physically distinct and separate components—PV solar panel, battery and system software. And while PV solar technology has made leapfrogging advances, battery tech and “smart home” system software have often lagged behind.

SunCulture believes it has the solution in a new device called SolPad. It integrates solid-state batteries, an inverter, and “intelligent software” that communicates with homeowners and their home’s systems.

Imitating the Mobile Phone Model

Besides uniting the key elements of a PV solar system into a single unit, the SolPad device makes solar more accessible for increasing numbers of homes throughout the world. Most of the world—especially the third world—lacks the funds to build costly grid infrastructure needed to supply these regions with electric power. But thanks to component miniaturization and integration, the SolPad device has changed the dynamic—not unlike what has occurred with smartphones, which have successfully integrated phone, camera and many other functions into a single unit. The result is an inexpensive, powerful device that’s easier to use and maintain than a system composed of separate units, a system not “ball and chained” by compatibility issues of PV panels, battery storage and system software.

Versatile System

Integrated devices like SolPad finally allow homeowners to control which rooms or electric appliances will be assigned PV solar power. Equally useful is the versatility feature that allows SolPad to be used standalone or connected in an array, which may significantly lower overall costs. As a single unit, the device can be placed on a patio or deck and used only intermittently when high electric needs arise. Ganged together into a powerful array, SolPads can sequentially provide increasingly more sustainable electric power. This flexibility allows property owners to go solar incrementally by starting with one unit and adding more over time. It places solar power at the feet of many who may not have the finances to start with a full, multi-panel PV system. Because PV panel, storage and software are fully integrated into a single device, SolPads can effectively function as a solar microgrid during power outages. Most solar arrays lack this ability since their automatic disconnection feature kicks in during power outages to protect utility workers from electricity flowing back into the grid.

Smart Inverter Adjusts for Clouds and Utility Rates

SolPad features a smart inverter that automatically adjusts its charging rate depending on whether it’s cloudy, rainy, or even when local electricity rates go up or down. For example, when utility rates go up during daytime, SolPad will draw on stored battery power. When lower nighttime utility rates kick in, it smartly switches back to grid power. The device even responds intelligently to power outages or blackouts, acting quickly and safely to disconnect itself from the grid. Working off grid, SolPad automatically goes into solar micro-grid mode to provide much needed power for lights and appliances.

Wire-Free System Simplifies Installation

Another interesting feature of SolPad is its “Home Connect” system. This power delivery interface efficiently moves power from rooftop panel to inside the home. The wire-free system links two or more SolPad rooftop panels, so no complex wiring is necessary. This alone greatly simplifies installation, resulting in both cost and time savings.

 Two Models to Choose From

Property owners have a choice of two SolPad models. There’s a ‘mobile’ SolPad that can be set up at home or for off-grid excursions, and a SolPad home model for fixed home installations. The home model comes in at just under $20,000, which the manufacturer says is roughly half of what you’d pay for a comparable solar array with battery storage.

Posted on Wednesday, November 16th, 2016