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SunPower prepares for ‘disruptive shift in energy market’ with Sunverge solar-plus-storage deal

SunPower believes the combined energy systems will confer benefits to utilities as well as to customers. Image: SunPower.

Integrated US photovoltaic energy company SunPower’s solar panels will be sold as part of a package that includes energy management software and energy storage capabilities to residential customers in the US and Australia from early next year.

SunPower has partnered with fellow North American company, Sunverge, which produces Solar Integration System (SIS), a distributed energy management system that combines solar and energy storage with smart controls. In common with other cloud-based energy management software, the platform can be controlled by the homeowner using tablets, smartphones and home computers. According to Sunverge chief executive officer Ken Munson, this means the ability to manage the separate components as a “fleet to enhance the long-term value of their energy investments”.

In announcing the link-up, SunPower said the two companies would start their commercial offering “in early 2015”, beginning with residential customers and their utilities in the US and “providing a similar offering” to customers in Australia. Financial details, specific timelines and regions for launch have not been revealed.

Also this week, SunPower announced that it will invest US$20 million of growth capital into Tendril, Inc, a company which makes a smart energy software platform called Energy Services Management (ESM), which is also designed to give customers more flexibility over their electricity supply and usage.

SunPower prepares for ‘disruptive shift in energy market’ with Sunverge solar-plus-storage deal

SunPower's Tom Werner talked up the possibilities for combining various aspects of home energy management, including solar-plus-storage when he spoke to PV Tech Storage earlier this year. Image: SunPower.

Commenting on the deal with Sunverge, SunPower chief executive officer Tom Werner put emphasis on the way he believes the management of home energy systems is changing to incorporate the “fleet” concept.

“Over the next five years, we expect to see a disruptive shift in the energy market, with solar power, energy storage, smart devices, energy management technologies and electric vehicles being combined,” Werner said.

“As we join Sunverge's adaptable and reliable storage solutions with SunPower's high performance solar technology, we're giving consumers a 'Smart Energy' solution that will deliver unprecedented levels of personalisation, value and control. Providing this integrated solution to utilities allows them to access the benefits of rooftop solar and storage at significant scale.”

Among the big US installers, SunPower and SolarCity appear to have been more forward than others on energy storage for their residential customers, with both launching pilots and talking up the possibilities going forward. In SunPower's case this has included the recent inclusion of the company's panels on a "double zero energy" home from production home builder KB Home, in addition to numerous pilot schemes. In an interview with Tom Werner conducted by PV Tech Storage earlier in the year, Werner put forward his view, shared by many in the industry, that the spread of storage is analogous to where solar was 10 years ago.

“Storage is really parallel with solar in our view. You think of the growth of storage we think solar is a good proxy or a good analogue,” he said.

“If you look back 10 years ago at the size of the market in solar and how fast it grew, we think that storage could have a similar trajectory through taking 10 years ago solar and forecasting that and going forward with storage.”

Interestingly, Werner and his company have also been among the first big players in the commercial space to discuss the possibility not just of storing PV generated electricity, but also to aggregate that power and sell it, not just as energy, but also for the ancillary services market, including demand response, which can assist the grid in matching supply and demand.

Tags: solar-plus-storage, energy management system, cloud-based, disruptive shift