Solar Power International has entered a whole new world of smart energy devices.
The trade show has been growing its tent for some years now. But the trend was particularly clear in 2018, with the event in Anaheim, California branded as part of North America Smart Energy Week. As adults dressed like Disney characters shuffled by on their way to a happier place, conference attendees entered a whole new world, a new fantastic point of view.
Beyond the hot new solar modules sporting incremental efficiency gains, new product unveilings included easily deployable electric car chargers, batteries and connected home devices. There was also a hydrogen fuel cell section tucked off in a corner somewhere.
Generating the power is just the beginning. The industry is dedicating more space and airtime to thinking about what comes next.
Join Greentech Media for a soaring, tumbling, freewheeling ride through an array of products launched at this year’s SPI.
Delivering fast chargers, faster
Electric vehicle fast-charger installation typically requires some construction: trenching wires, putting stuff in the ground, repaving asphalt. That takes time and adds a whiff of permanence to the whole affair.
Public fast-charging company EVgo took a different approach with its new FastStart charging station, which situates a pair of chargers on a metal sled that can be dropped into place from a truck bed, and then simply connected to a power source.
The genesis was to help a customer who needed a faster turnaround on a charger installation, said Julie Blunden, executive vice president for business development. But the patent-pending design helps in other ways, too.
As temporary equipment, it is easier and faster to obtain permits for, Blunden said.
By streamlining the installation process, it reduces the soft costs of building out EV infrastructure, in the way that containerized energy storage products shift labor from the field to the factory. EVgo typically pays for installation itself and recoups the cost by selling electricity to drivers, so it stands to benefit directly from those cost reductions.
It also offers modularity: As the population of EV drivers grows, a location can add more charging capacity bit by bit. Each station comes with two 50-kilowatt chargers, available as DC fast charge, Level 2 or both.
If customers in one area dwindle, or a developer wants to turn the parking lot into trendy mixed-use condos, the station can be picked up and moved elsewhere.
The rise of EVs poses a thorny planning challenge: The technology moves quickly, but it requires hard infrastructure to sustain it. If the infrastructure lags behind, it could delay adoption of zero-emission vehicles. If the infrastructure build-out gets too far ahead of customer uptake, it could lead to stranded assets and misdirected investment.
Greater flexibility in how charging equipment reaches the field could mitigate both of those problems.