Inverter assembly at Steca in Memmingen (Source: Steca)
The breathtakingly fast-growing world of solar has become a complex one. Customers are being offered ever more opportunities for action and investment, and this is overburdening some of them. At the heart of this complexity stands the inverter, where all the connections come together. Manufacturers can support their customers by providing an orientation guide and making the use of photovoltaics simpler again. “The complexity in our sector has increased over the years,” says Markus Vetter, Head of Marketing and Communication at Kostal. The simple model of feeding in at a fixed tariff has been replaced by a business model which balances own consumption, storage and infeed, and also considers flexibly timing consumption in order to most effectively use the solar electricity.
It is no longer enough to determine how many modules will fit on the roof and how many you can afford. You now have to additionally think about whether storage is really going to be worthwhile, and if so, what its capacity should be. “The demands on the human-machine interface have also increased,” adds Vetter. If you then also have to consider whether a smart home system would make sense and what interfaces then have to be used, the complexity becomes very evident.
Kostal‘s answer to the increasing web of system technology is the new inverter Plenticore plus. It aims to provide a suitable solution for as many customer desires as possible. It can be used with or without a battery and is designed to additionally be able to charge the battery via the AC bus if so desired. In order to fulfil the many different demands, three MPP trackers are available. You can either connect up three module strings or two module strings and a battery.
Communication must also become more powerful and flexible. Kostal has thus developed the “Smart Communication Board”, which aims to fulfil current and future demands and whose functions are also expandable via app. In this way the new inverter aims to satisfy market demands which now, or in the near future, are going for own consumption, thus giving the battery an important role. Not all batteries are suitable, however. Just like all other inverters to which a battery can be connected, the Plenticore plus has specific requirements.
“Given the large number of battery systems, it is our task to support the customer in making a selection and to separate the wheat from the chaff,” stresses Vetter: “We look at the batteries and check whether they will fit with the inverter.” These are time-consuming qualification processes: “The batteries which we recommend not only have to meet safety standards, but also our brand quality.” This means that an “intelligent connection” can only be made between the Plenticore plus and certain batteries. The operation of the battery throws up a multitude of questions; what happens if there is a fault? How are results logged? Who will carry out the servicing? “We clarify these questions in advance, before we recommend a battery to our customers,” says Vetter. So far, batteries from Sony and BYD have passed the tests and it currently looks as if the Austrian battery manufacturer Kreisel will also receive a Kostal recommendation shortly.