Storage and inverter company OutBack Power has launched a new home backup system that combines three technologies: solar, storage and natural gas or diesel generators.
OutBack will work with Bay City Electric Works, a distributor of generators made by bath and faucet giant Kohler, to sell the systems throughout California and Nevada, as the companies vie to win a slice of a growing market focused on resilience amid power outages.
Unlike many solar and storage companies pitching customers on backup power, OutBack is including fossil fuels, which it says will optimize the system and allow it to more effectively handle greater loads.
“Our products have pretty much since the beginning enabled customers to connect a generator to them. In the off-grid world, that’s really not optional — you have to do that because there’s going to be times where there simply isn’t sufficient solar resource for the loads you need to run,” said Paul Dailey, OutBack’s director of product and market strategy. “What we’re doing in this instance is bringing that to the backup scenario.”
Since its founding, Arizona-based OutBack has focused on hardware that can withstand harsh environments. That ethos, and an emphasis on off-grid installations, has seen the company through numerous changes in ownership. Industrial energy storage provider EnerSys bought OutBack last year as part of a larger acquisition of Alpha Technologies Group, a software and power provider to cable and communications companies that bought OutBack in 2010.
Its history makes OutBack perhaps a natural entrant into the growing home backup market.
“Conceptually, that was where we had been wanting to go for a long time,” Dailey told Greentech Media.
Generator company Generac Power Systems has also recently made several strategic acquisitions to gain competencies on solar and storage, launching its own “whole-home solar power solution” in August. And like Generac, OutBack has pitched its solution as capable of entire home backup, which requires more power than most national solar and storage vendors offer.
Dailey said OutBack’s configuration will optimize a generator’s output while relying on solar and storage for less power-intensive loads. The ease of incorporating a generator, plus OutBack’s years of field experience on solar and storage off-grid systems sets its product apart, Dailey said.
“By adding the batteries and the PV, you basically enable that generator to run for less time, at a more efficient power level,” said Dailey. “The generator is going to use less fuel, it’s going to have less hours and less maintenance issues.”
Inverters on Generac’s home backup system can handle 9 to 11 kilowatts of power output, depending on whether customers use one or two batteries. OutBack’s range of 5 to 8 kilowatts also depends on the inverter package, although Dailey said customers often stack batteries.
OutBack’s latest partnership arrives concurrent with numerous disasters in the United States. Category 4 Hurricane Laura devastated parts of Louisiana and left more than 360,000 customers without power as of August 30, and wildfires tore through California in August, causing widespread evacuations.
As those types of events become increasingly common — climate change is exacerbating the severity of storms and the virulence of wildfires across the world — more and more companies in the U.S. are launching solutions geared towards resiliency.
While OutBack also sells off-grid systems abroad, more than half of its business is in North America. If its partnership with Bay City Electric is a success, Dailey said OutBack may expand beyond the West, working with other generator distributors in broader U.S. geographies.
Source: Greentech Media