We are excited about the launch of Enphase Ensemble™ energy management technology, a system designed to make it easier to connect and monitor the components in your solar-plus-storage system.
Enphase IQ microinverters (and microinverters generally) are some of the easiest kinds of inverters to install. Microinverters are also the most flexible option if you plan to expand your system down the road. Ensemble technology will make it much simpler to retrofit your system with energy storage and make all the components work together.
In this article, we’ll give you a preview of the main components of Enphase Ensemble technology, its most important features, the best use cases, and an overview of a few example systems.
We haven’t started shipping any of the new Ensemble technology-based products quite yet, but they are expected to be available in July 2020. Naturally, we’ll keep you updated on any developments. We’ve carried Enphase microinverters for many years and look forward to seeing their new storage products in action.
Enphase Ensemble Technology Overview
Ensemble energy management technology includes an always-on storage platform, which consists of the following components:
- Enphase Encharge™ storage system
- Enphase Enpower™ smart switch
- Enphase IQ combiner with Ensemble Communications Kit
Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.
The Enphase Encharge storage system
Encharge batteries will be available in two sizes:
Most customers will need at least 10 kWh of energy storage, so the Encharge 3 battery is a smaller building block designed to help get you the exact storage capacity you need. For example, you can build a 16.8 kWh storage system by combining one Encharge 10 with two Encharge 3 units.
For enough capacity and output to back up an entire house, you will need multiple Encharge 10 units. For most homes, this would mean four or more Encharge 10 units for whole-home backup, although this varies depending on your specific requirements.
There are a few different Lithium battery chemistries used in PV systems today. Enphase opted to use Lithium Ferro Phosphate, commonly called LFP or LiFePO4 battery chemistry. The main benefits of LFP are safety and high cycle life.
Encharge batteries work in an AC-coupled architecture, with the same technology used in Enphase microinverters. Under the Ensemble system, solar and storage systems pair seamlessly without the need for additional components or a complicated installation process.
The Enpower smart switch
The Enpower smart switch is used to integrate the major components: solar microinverters, power grid, energy storage, and external generator. This essential piece of technology synchronizes everything and ensures that power flows to the right places.
The smart switch can be configured for either whole-home backup or partial-home backup. This is a huge step forward, as many past storage systems were only designed for partial backup and required that you install a new load panel for critical circuits.
This added flexibility is a nice feature and makes this system suitable for both smaller applications, like backing up a fridge and lights, as well as larger systems, with which you can power an entire house.
The Enpower smart switch has a 200-amp main breaker, which makes it suitable for whole-home backup of a 200-amp service panel (assuming you have enough PV and energy storage to keep up with demand.) The smart switch communicates wirelessly with the Encharge batteries and the IQ Combiner.
Enphase IQ Combiner
The Enphase IQ combiner is used to aggregate a group of Enphase microinverter AC branch circuits. It is simply a convenient way to combine your circuits of microinverters. Many of our customers are already using IQ Combiners in their projects, as it’s an easy and relatively affordable solution.
The Ensemble system requires that you use the Ensemble Communications Kit so that the system can receive software updates, and access remote troubleshooting.
Enphase IQ Microinverters
The last major component in this system is the Enphase IQ microinverter. All Enphase IQ inverters will be compatible with the new Ensemble suite of products, which makes retrofitting existing systems a breeze as long as you are working with IQ microinverters (IQ 6™, IQ 7™, IQ 7+™, IQ 7A™, etc.).
Learn more about Enphase microinverters:
- Enphase IQ 7+ (shop link)
- Enphase IQ 7A (shop link)
- Review: Enphase IQ 7+
- String inverters vs. microinverters: which is best for me?
For additional information, watch this video comparing Enphase microinverters to string inverters:
Now that we’ve covered the major components, let’s look at what sets Enphase Ensemble technology apart from other options on the market.
Enphase Ensemble technology: Key Features
From our perspective, there are a few features that make Ensemble technology appealing:
- It’s an all-in-one solution from a single manufacturer
- It’s based on a modular and expandable design
- High reliability
- It uses a very safe battery chemistry
Ensemble technology delivers the first solution we’ve seen that includes inverters, batteries, and monitoring systems all in one platform.
Most other solutions require you to use products from a handful of manufacturers, like an inverter from one company and a battery system from another. Buying all your components from one manufacturer can simplify the whole experience:
- Quick & simple installation because the components are designed to work together
- Improved tech support because technicians will be familiar with the full product line
- Simpler and faster warranty service
Modular and expandable design
A key benefit to the Enphase design is the modular and expandable nature of the system. You can add more microinverters for more solar or more batteries at a later point to keep up with increasing energy demands. You can also start with solar and very easily add energy storage later.
The modular design also adds a level of redundancy other systems don’t have. If one microinverter fails, the others can continue to work without interruption. Your system can continue to generate and store power at a reduced capacity if a component fails, and a broken part can be replaced with minimal effort.
In contrast to other technologies such as string inverters, the failure of one component cannot take down the entire system.
With more than 1,100,000 solar systems and 30,000 energy storage systems deployed, it’s safe to say Enphase has experience in the solar industry.
There are a couple of other things working in favor of the Enphase solution when it comes to reliability. The inverter technology in Enphase Encharge batteries is the same one used in its rooftop microinverters. That means that Encharge batteries benefit from the same testing and quality processes Enphase has refined over the years.
Additionally, there are no active cooling components in the Enphase battery products, meaning that there are no fans or coolant pumps at risk of failing.
The Encharge batteries contain several microinverters. If one fails, the others will continue to operate at reduced capacity, just like Enphase microinverters on the roof do. This means that you benefit from the same level of redundancy present in Enphase solar systems, in their storage solution.
We have distributed Enphase products for quite a while, and it’s safe to say we’ve been happy with the reliability of their products over the years. We hope to see Ensemble technology continue that trend.
You can tell safety was a priority for Enphase, based on their choice to use LFP battery chemistry.
The LFP batteries do not contain cobalt, they will not explode if punctured, and they are not prone to thermal runaway like other Lithium-ion chemistries.
The right battery chemistry is a crucial part of any advanced energy storage system. We were pleased to learn that Encharge batteries employ LFP chemistry, the same stable and long-lasting technology we recommend for off-grid applications.
Enphase Ensemble: Ideal Use Cases & Applications
The main use-case for Ensemble technology is battery backup for your home or business.
We see a lot of interest in battery backup. Many people have been affected by power outages due to storms, or public safety power shutdown (PSPS) events, and they are now looking for a level of energy security that the utility company can’t provide.
Combining solar with energy storage can be an excellent option for emergency backup because it doesn’t rely on a fuel source like natural gas and allows you to take advantage of your solar array during a power outage.
Manage Energy Storage & Resale
Another use-case is the ability to control your energy more intelligently by alternately storing or selling power when it makes the most financial sense. For example, you can store energy and sell it when rates are highest. Or you can store energy and use it at a later point instead of paying for grid power.
There are various ways to configure solar-plus-storage systems, depending on your local utility’s rates and requirements. Utility companies are changing the way they bill customers and having a sophisticated energy storage system can help future-proof your system for changing utility rates and technical requirements.
Is Solar-Plus-Storage with Enphase Ensemble technology right for me?
We feel there are a few groups of people who are an ideal fit for Enphase products:
- DIY installers
We’ve worked with many DIY solar installers, and ease-of-installation is one of the biggest things they look for in their home energy technology.
Enphase is easy to install in several ways: There is almost no risk of coming into contact with high-voltage DC electricity, and much of the installation involves either standard household AC wiring or the plug-and-play cables and connectors from Enphase.
Further, there are only a few components in a system, and most of them are intuitive to install and use. Installation details are well-covered in their supporting literature, which includes manuals, tech papers, and YouTube videos.
With Enphase, the entire design process is simplified. Since each solar panel operates independently, you don’t have to be concerned about poor system performance because some panels are facing a different direction on your roof. You also don’t need to worry about complex calculations to get string sizing right; all you have to do is make sure you do not exceed the maximum number of microinverters per AC branch circuit.
If one of your panels ends up being shaded due to an unforeseen obstruction, it will not impact the rest of the array.
Straightforward design and installation are why we think this is a good brand for homebuilders. Starting in 2020, all new homes built in California must have solar. Since we expect other states to follow this trend, homebuilders are well-served by learning about how easy it is to meet the new California building codes using Enphase.
Homebuilders will likely find the learning curve to design and install solar using Enphase microinverters a bit easier than other products. The plug-and-play simplicity of Enphase solar-plus-storage technology provides an opportunity for builders to perform solar installations themselves instead of outsourcing it.
Solar installers can monitor and get instant access to performance data of their customers’ systems using the Enphase Enlighten Manager. In the event of a problem, Enphase can remotely diagnose issues, simplify troubleshooting, and prevent unnecessary service trips.
The Enphase Enlighten mobile app is great for homeowners as well because they can monitor their energy production and use it to quickly start troubleshooting if there ever is a problem.
Essentially, we think the Ensemble will be a good option for anyone looking for a solar system that is easy to design and install and can be expanded with energy storage (either upfront or down the road).
Let’s wrap up with a look at some benchmark pricing for a few sample systems:
All pricing includes Encharge storage units, Enpower switch, IQ combiner and Ensemble Communication Kit. Pricing is subject to change, please contact us for a quote.
This pricing is for the storage system and does not include solar panels and associated components (microinverters, racking & cabling.) Note that installation is also not included or estimated in these prices.
Click here to see our full list of Enphase microinverter kits.
Requirements vary, and these sample systems are meant to show common use cases, but they are not representative of every household.
As with any backup system, you need to limit the use of any high power appliances, including air conditioners, electric heaters, and power tools (welder, compressors etc).
Evaluating which appliances are critical and how much power they consume is the best way to determine how much capacity your system will need.
Hopefully this helps give an overview of the new storage solution from Enphase.
We are happy to design a project that meets your exact needs. Please contact us if there’s any way we can help!