Faced with extreme weather events and unexpected and planned power outages, flexible energy storage solutions provide solar array owners with backup power from batteries when the lights go out. Recently, OutBack Power released an AC coupling firmware update to its SkyBox hybrid inverter. AC coupling is ideal when users have an existing solar PV system and want to add batteries for backup and time-of-use energy management.
“The SkyBox hybrid inverter is a fantastic solution for owners of grid-tied PV systems.” said OutBack Power trained installer Jason Rutland, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at United Electric and Solar in Camarillo, California. “SkyBox does not require much of the existing grid-tied system be replaced compared to what is required with a DC coupled solution. That is one reason why I believe we are going to see more demand for the SkyBox AC Coupling function as we experience more outages in our region.”
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Public Safety Power Shut Offs last year left millions of California residents in the dark, with little or no notice. While many households and businesses expected their solar panels to power their buildings when the grid was down, they now understand the reality that they need a capable backup battery system to supply power during these shutoffs in order to realize the full potential of their solar power system. By adding a SkyBox hybrid inverter and energy storage to an existing grid-tied PV system, owners can keep their arrays and even enlarge them, meet new code requirements, and power their buildings with clean energy.
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Since last year, new solar customers in California have been put on Time-of-Use rates with peaks in the evening when solar production is declining. In addition, new National Electric Code (NEC) requirements took effect in California and other regions in 2017. Notably, new rapid shutdown requirements are now being enforced, raising the cost of replacing an existing inverter and/or PV array.
How to access it
OutBack Power’s SkyBox hybrid inverter with AC coupling provides the solution to both problems. Once the SkyBox hybrid inverter and batteries are installed, an icon appears on the SkyBox screen whenever a new firmware version is ready for installation. The user can simply press the icon and follow the simple on-screen instructions to install the firmware.
A true hybrid energy system, SkyBox hybrid inverter provides both reliable energy back-up in the face of utility shutdowns and helps customers navigate new pricing structures and electrical codes with their existing arrays intact. Simply, SkyBox addresses a need in the market for energy flexibility.
“Today, many customers expect more control over how they use their power. This is essential in the event of unexpected power shutoffs, or rate-changes,” said Paul Dailey, Director of Product & Market Strategy for OutBack Power “By providing an easy AC coupling solution for systems up to 7.6 kW, we are giving users more control of their systems, more energy savings, and more protection in the face of shutoffs.”
OutBack Power updates its SkyBox hybrid inverter firmware regularly to introduce new features. Past firmware upgrades include stacking, to allow two SkyBox hybrid inverters to be used in the same system, drop-down battery presets for streamlined installation, and external current measurement which enables energy management for the whole home. This last feature eliminates external charge controllers and communication boxes, significantly cutting solar and energy storage installation time and cost.
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