The solar inverter is a central component of every solar system, turning the direct current (DC) from a solar panel to the alternating current (AC) we use in homes and the electric grid. Some call it the brains of the solar system because it is where the solar system is monitored and feeds into the AC electrical system.
What could be a game changer for inverters is adding chargers, which could reduce the number of components in an installation and make a less expensive smart energy solution. They could also be the next evolution of solar systems and their integration with EVs.
Inverter chargers are here
SolarEdge (NASDAQ:SEDG) was the first to introduce an inverter with EV charter in its D-Wave line of products. The company says combining the inverter and charger "eliminates the need for additional wiring, conduit and a breaker installation," saving time and money. Since customers who install solar systems are more likely to own EVs and vice versa, it makes sense to combine the inverter, charger, and eventually even energy storage system into one unit.
Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has combined the inverter with its storage system in the Powerwall, simplifying the installation of some components. But the charger is still separate from the Powerwall and long term I think that will change as well.
Why inverters, chargers, and storage belong together
Solar systems and electric vehicles have always been destined to meet at some point because they're both upending energy as we know it. Rooftop solar allows homeowners to generate their own electricity, something that wasn't possible before, and EVs change how we fuel transportation. What makes them ideal companions is the smart energy capabilities they can provide.
As rate structures are changed across the country to incorporate time-of-use rates, demand charges, and other fees, solar inverters and energy storage systems are using algorithms to reduce electricity costs for solar owners. That may mean more self-consumption of solar electricity or at times using cheap grid electricity and exporting solar electricity when prices are high.
The same dynamic plays out for EVs, which are major electricity demand sources in a home. If a smart charger can charge the battery when electricity is cheap, it'll save costs long-term without interrupting a homeowners' everyday life. Making the decision of when to charge and when not to should fall on the inverter or energy storage system, which is already acting as the brains of the solar system. Inverter chargers make sense for most solar systems as a result.
Who to watch in smart charging
There are three main companies to watch in inverter chargers over the next few years. SolarEdge is already bringing the charger and inverter together and I would expect more capabilities to be added, like energy storage integrated as well. Tesla is a natural company to launch an inverter combined with energy storage and charging. Another to watch is SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR), which has residential energy storage systems and will control an EV charger with its solar control system. It could combine all three into one seamless solution as well.
Before long, it'll be commonplace to get more than just an inverter with your solar system. EV charging will be standard and energy storage could be, too.