Tabuchi Electric partnerships target large-scale PV and aggregated residential solar storage

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One of Japan’s leading solar inverter makers, Tabuchi Electric, has formed technology partnerships with US companies to target markets for large-scale PV plants and residential energy storage.

Tabuchi Electric announced yesterday that it will collaborate on product advancements with power conversion company Ampt, aimed at developing lower cost and higher performance solutions for utility-scale PV plants. This will involve Tabuchi’s inverters pairing with Ampt’s DC optimisers. The optimisers raise the inverter rated output power of PV system inverters, which Ampt claims can reduce costs-per-watt.

PV Tech met Ampt marketing director Mark Kanjorski at PV Expo in Tokyo earlier this year, where Kanjorski was keen to talk about what the company’s optimisers could do in terms of reducing the need for electrical components and cabling in Japan’s large-scale market. Ampt also held a funding round worth US$25 million earlier this year to fuel growth in production.

Tabuchi meanwhile, was one of three leading inverter firms to make up a market share in Japan of around 60% in the first three quarters of 2014, but is also keen to expand elsewhere, including the US. The company launched a residential solar-plus-storage product at Intersolar North America in July and has now followed it up by partnering with energy storage software and data company Geli Energy.

The Geli-Tabuchi collaboration will add extra capabilities to Tabuchi’s EneTelus Intelligent Battery System (EIBS), making it a customer sited device that allows utilities to manage distributed energy resources (DERs), including solar PV arrays and smart thermostats.

The partners hope that by allowing for greater participation in distributed networks, EIBS will help utilities with the grid, offering the chance to aggregate connected customer systems to co-ordinate demand response programmes and other grid services.

“We think of energy storage as energy computing. Geli provides the smart software and Tabuchi provides the best-in-class hardware. Together we’re helping utilities forge ahead with the confidence they need to expand solar penetration and meet ambitious renewable energy targets,” Geli’s vice president of business development, Andrew Tanner said.

Looking at the US, where Tabuchi’s announcement of the news was timed to coincide with this week’s Solar Power International convention, California in particular has made recent provisions to move towards greater levels of distributed generation, demanding its three main investor-owned utilities (IoUs) produce DRPs (distributed resource plans) over summer that are still in the process of being finalised. Similarly, New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) state-wide plan includes a principal focus on enabling DERs through adapting utility business models, making utilities the controller of DERs.

“One of the key tenets [of NY REV] is that the utilities will – in addition to their roles as utilities – create, serve as and eventually have a separate entity known as a distributed system platform provider (DSPP) and that entity [will control] the marketplace for DERs at the edge of the grid,” said William Acker of technical advisory and trade association group NY BEST (New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium) in a recent feature on NY REV for PV Tech Power.

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