There is an entrepreneurial and venture capital rush in building out the Home Area Network (HAN). Companies like People Power, Tendril, Google, Cisco, iControl, Lixar (bought by Gridpoint), Greenbox (acquired by Silver Spring Networks), Control4, EnergyHub, EcoFactor, et al. are all working on software and hardware pieces of home and building energy management.
The millions of deployed smart meters tend to look out towards the utility. When these meters interact with the appliances in the home, they typically work through some hardware and software gateway that is armed with wireless capabilities and intelligence on household behavior.
But what if there was already a piece of home electronics that contained some intelligence on energy usage, was connected to the grid and had some communications capabilities?
That could be the PV inverter (or, in Enphase's case, the microinverter) and its communication gateway.
Enphase never intended to be limited to the DC-to-AC microinverter function. The company's CEO, Paul Nahi, hinted at their grander ambitions at Greentech Media's Solar Summit in Phoenix in April of this year.
Nahi spoke of "Their Energy," the utility's domain, and "My Energy," the energy generated and consumed within the four walls of the home. That's where Enphase expects to play -- and where other microinverter firms might be considering a market entry.
Enphase's newly introduced Solar-Integrated Smart Thermostat wirelessly connects to the Enphase microinverter system, and lets owners manage their solar installations along with their heating and cooling systems in a single Web-based platform.
“One of the most compelling pieces of the Enphase Microinverter System is the built-in communications and analytics platform. It allows owners to monitor and manage their solar system’s performance through a Web-based interface,” said Nahi.
The thermostat integrates with the Enphase microinverter through a ZigBee wireless connection, one of several standard protocols for smart energy devices. This connection allows owners to control the indoor climate through a Web browser or smart phone, as well as directly with the wall-mounted thermostat.
“This product introduction is a significant step toward a unified platform for businesses and homeowners to generate, monitor and control their own energy,” added Nahi. “Converging these elements into a single platform has the potential to both unite and expand the markets for solar, energy efficiency and smart homes, broadly accelerating the shift to a clean energy economy.”