Some 1.4 million of Australia's 7.8 million homes — around one in five — currently have solar power. During the day, solar panels generate large volumes of power that go unused in the home. This unused energy is exported to utilities who pay around 7c per kilowatt hour. At night, when families are home, power usage increases, and families purchase energy at four times their generation rate, with basic flat tariffs ranging between 25 to 28c per kilowatt hour.
Brisbane-based Redback Technologies is launching a second generation version of their smart hybrid inverter and a new family of grid tied inverters that the solar energy specialist says will help households and commercial users increase the percentage of solar power they self-consume, improving the pay back from solar panels and helping to reduce reliance on fossil based fuels.
The new products, the Single and 3-Phase Grid Tie Family and the Generation II Hybrid solar inverters, make use of the Internet of Things and cloud technology to give household and commercial users more options.
Redback says the new Single and 3-Phase Grid Tie Family for residential and commercial customers "revolutionise" the traditional inverter, which converts DC power generated by solar panels into AC power for general use.
The new Grid-Tie range incorporates Redback's proprietary cloud enabled intelligent system for analytics and remote control; Redback’s Ouija Board. The Ouija Board is also found in the Generation II Hybrid for household use; a second generation inverter that is battery and solar panel agnostic.
"Across the new family of products, the software is the secret," Redback says. "Redback's system will use machine learning to gather intelligence over time, learning from user preferences as well as drawing data from external factors like the weather. This will ensure energy usage is optimised, thus providing an accelerated return on investment."
Redback Technologies Chief Information Officer, Paul Liddell, believes the Ouija Board software represents a step change in solar energy management.
"People don't have to be focused on using expensive hardware solutions for things that can be done with software," Liddell says. "When the sun is shining, the Redback solution will ensure the batteries are full and household appliances, like the pool pump and hot water system, are turned on. The idea is to maximise the energy you’re producing by using your appliances — before you store it in batteries."
Redback's solution is hosted in Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite cloud platform, with the intention of easy updates and upgrades as technology develops.
The difference between the Redback solution and others on the market is the hardware and software are integrated from the very beginning, explains Mr Liddell.
"There are some manufacturers that do hardware, and others that make software, but you can run into problems trying to integrate them. The Redback solution eliminates the potential for such problems through seamless integration of hardware and software."
Redback hardware is manufactured overseas, but the intellectual property is a product of Brisbane, where Redback employs a workforce of about 20.