Why Ensemble Storage is Attractive

The world is awaiting Enphase’s 8th-generation of energy products; the technology which will orchestrate these products is called “Ensemble” and will be embedded in the ASIC’s of the microinverters, the Envoy communications gateway, the new Encharge storage products, and the new Enpower intelligent Microgrid Interconnect Device (MID).  Enphase’s Ensemble will be revolutionary on the energy solution landscape, for it will enable solar-storage solutions to be grid-agnostic, working regardless of whether the utility grid is operable.  Although comparable solutions are on the market, they must have storage to operate; however, with Enphase’s Ensemble full roll-out, storage becomes optional, making for the world’s first solar PV-based microgrid system to hit the market.

Enphase will roll out Ensemble Storage first and then IQ8 microinverters with Ensemble thereafter.  Ensemble Storage will be a great addition to the newest fleets of pre-IQ8 systems, as well as any new systems, also.  For the “legacy” M- and S-series systems, upgrading to IQ8 microinverters and adding storage will be a great path for them.  Grid-agnostic solar PV systems with optional storage will eventually become the standard since these types of systems offer a flexible advantage that current microgrid solutions don’t have.

Ensemble Storage will be a catalyst enabling microgrid capability for all IQ6 and IQ7 systems; it will include 3.3kWh and 10kWh storage models; Encharge 3.3 will have four integrated IQ8 microinverters, while Encharge 10 will have twelve; this hardware redundancy instills true fault-tolerance in the product such that even with an inverter failure, Encharge will continue to operate — something competing storage solutions cannot do.  For example, the Encharge 3.3 could have 3 of its 4 integrated IQ8 microinverters fail, and the product would still operate at a derated power.  Wow, talk about reliability!

In addition, Encharge Storage will use passive cooling, that is, it will not have any internal fans; many storage solutions on the market use active cooling, that is, they do have internal fans.  Fan failures can cause a storage unit to become inoperable, something Encharge will be immune from.

With Ensemble Storage being added to a non-IQ8 system (IQ6/IQ7), there is something customers must understand before making a purchasing decision.  The exact relationship for the number of IQ8 to non-IQ8 microinverters in a system required for creating a microgrid is expected; so, adding the right number of storage units will be crucial to maximizing the size of the microgrid.

A possible example might be that if a customer has 2 strings of IQ microinverters in a 2 x 12 configuration with 24 microinverters total, it may be worth adding two Encharge 10’s since that would allow for the creation of a microgrid that incorporates the system’s non-IQ8 microinverters; the configuration requirements still need to be defined exactly.

Furthermore, by adding Encharge to an existing IQ solar system, it would mean that no roof service would be needed, and that is a major attribute for the storage product that might be overlooked, and here’s why: When IQ8 microinverters with Ensemble debut after Ensemble Storage is released, the option of replacing M- and S-series microinverters on the roof with IQ8’s to give the “legacy” solar systems microgrid capability will be possible, but it will require roof work, and there are trade-offs to consider there.  

Most recently, I replaced 2 of my 85 microinverters on my 20,000-Watt M-series system; the system had been working fine for 7 years in the subtropical Florida elements which included intense heat, humidity, downpours, near-freezing temperatures, and other foul weather like hurricanes!  Sadly, even with just 2 replacements, I had to (1) replace a rusted-on clamp, (2) re-glue several solar panels whose junction boxes had come loose due to brittle adhesive, and (3) replace a panel whose junction box had an electrical issue causing a melt-down and had caused one of the cables connecting the panel to the microinverter to become melded together; this required some wiring expertise, and it also led to the revelation that it was not the microinverter that was the crux of the problem!  In summary, a lot of extra work was necessary that I had not considered.  Luckily, I had spare clamps and a solar panel in storage, so my replacement project was not delayed.

With the replacement microinverters installed, my system was once again running at 100%.  The beauty of this whole ordeal was that my system was never 100% inoperable, save for those 2 panels, and demonstrated the true reliability of an Enphase system that competing solutions can’t match.  However, the ordeal did reveal that replacing microinverters which had been in place for a long period of time on my roof was not as simple as initially perceived and that the option IQ system owners have of just adding Ensemble Storage to turn their solar system into a microgrid is quite attractive.

Anyways, I don’t have an IQ system, so with my 85 M-series microinverter system, I plan on upgrading to IQ8 when they’re available; Enphase already has some excellent upgrade paths available for customers to consider.

Customers with M- and S-series microinverters will want to upgrade to IQ8, especially if they live in areas where power can be knocked out for lengthy periods of time.  During Hurricane Irma, I was without grid power for a week, but that was nothing compared to Hurricane Maria which knocked out power in areas of Puerto Rico for more than 6-months.  I am a Net Energy Metering (NEM) customer with my utility, so I may wait on storage since I’m paid for the excess electricity my system generates; however, adding at least one Encharge storage product to my solution is attractive since it will make “brown-out’s” obsolete.  Since I am a NEM customer, storage is not critical for me, so upgrading my microinverters to IQ8 to have microgrid capability is my main goal; having that capability would allow me to double the amount of time my propane fuel lasts during a power outage.  During Hurricane Irma, I used a generator around the clock, but with a microgrid-capable solar PV system, that generator usage would be halved at least.

In summary, Enphase’s Ensemble is truly the start of something magnificent, for it will bring energy freedom and security to a lot of customers. Ensemble will raise the bar for superiority and intelligence for residential solar power, and it will push a standard that all solar systems will require sooner or later.  Ensemble Storage is a very attractive product for both new and existing Enphase customers, and for many customers like myself, we’ve been waiting for this product for a very long time!

TJ Roberts is an Enphase customer in the Sunshine State of Florida with 85 Enphase microinverters on his home and no utility bill! TJ has worked with solar outfits in Florida and volunteered with GridAlternatives in Colorado, installing Enphase energy solutions. TJ attended SEIA in Colorado for solar training in the various solar technologies. TJ has written many articles on SeekingAlpha.com promoting Enphase awareness.