Span.IO has a major new partner to bring its sleek, sensored and circuit-by-circuit remote-controllable electrical panels to market: lithium-ion battery giant LG Chem.
On Thursday, LG Chem launched its new "customizable backup” solar-storage offering, which includes its Resu home batteries and a Span smart panel. The combined product is now available through both companies’ installer networks.
The batteries provide 9.8 kilowatt-hours of storage, useful to store and discharge solar power during normal grid operations or as backup power when the grid goes down. The Span panel provides digital control over discrete household loads, whether to prioritize critical loads during blackouts or maximize day-to-day efficiency.
This level of circuit-by-circuit control is rare for today’s solar-storage and backup power systems, which tend to be limited to a few preselected, hard-wired loads to be backed up during emergencies. That’s largely because traditional home electrical panels are simple, if reliable, electromechanical designs that can’t be converted to digital controls.
Beyond being "dumb" devices, many household panels require upgrades, as well as additional equipment like automated transfer switches and isolation transformers, before batteries can be added to a home. And even when they’re properly connected, homeowners have little visibility into how quickly their chosen loads will deplete their batteries beyond trial and error since those loads aren’t metered or monitored.
Span founder and CEO Arch Rao faced those challenges during his years as Tesla’s chief of energy storage and designed Span’s panel to solve them. The sleek metal-and-glass panels add power electronics, sensors, processing power and software to monitor and control up to 32 household circuits, plus solar or battery inverters, EV charger controls and grid connect-disconnect, all via smartphone app.
This level of customizable backup power is “a meaningful step up from the present generation of storage offerings,” Rao said in an interview last week. While today’s home storage systems monitor and show their owners how much juice they have left, “it’s another thing to be able to dynamically manage that storage,” as Span allows.
The San Francisco-based startup unveiled its technology in September, targeting key markets such as California and Hawaii, and working with installers including Hawaii’s RevoluSun. Thursday’s announcement cements LG Chem as a key backer, an important step for a startup seeking to enter a well-established market dominated by electrical equipment giants like Eaton and Schneider Electric.
But with customers in vital markets such as wildfire- and blackout-stricken California now demanding a higher level of visibility and control over their backup power systems, LG Chem was eager to adopt a technology that could provide it, Linh Tran, the company’s director of residential energy storage sales, said in an interview last week.
“If they’re in the middle of an emergency situation...they’re going to want to know how much battery they’ve got left” relative to the loads they must keep on for the blackout’s duration, she said. “We don’t give their answer to the homeowner today.”
LG Chem also sees benefits beyond backup power, she noted.
“You should know where every electron goes in your home now that you’re generating and storing power under your roof,” she said. “Span’s product allows customers to most efficiently use their battery,” whether to maximize bill savings or self-consumption of solar power.