Startup wants to make solar power plug-and-play

Span has just released a smart electric panel and an app to make it easier for homeowners to install and manage solar power.

Top 5 features smart homes still need Tom Merritt explains five ways smart home technology is evolving.

The traditional electricity distribution grid goes one way. Generators produce the energy and send it to corporate or residential customers. The problem for utility companies is that some of these customers are now generating their own energy. Retailers like Target and Wal-Mart are installing solar panels on store rooftops across the country. Target stores can generate 229 megawatts from 464 installations, and Walmart has 152 MW in over 375 installations.

span-smart-panel-exterior.jpg

Source: SpanIO

These "distributed energy resources" include home solar panels and energy storage and are making the grid more difficult and costly to manage for operators, according to a report from Accenture. The rise in distributed renewable energy means total demand for energy is changing, which can mean lower profits for generators. 

Also, to incorporate these distributed resources into the existing infrastructure, generators have to make massive investments in new connections and grid reinforcement. This distributed capacity is only going to increase, and generators are occasionally embracing this challenge but mostly fighting it. 

SEE: Special report: How to optimize the smart office (free PDF)

Instead of waiting for the power industry to modernize, the renewable energy start-up Span wants to give makes it easier for homeowners to install and manage solar energy. 
Span has just launched a new electric panel to help homeowners manage stored energy. With the panel and associated app, homeowners can categorize and prioritize energy usage. Span's smart panel replaces the many pieces of equipment needed to install distributed energy today with a single plug-and-play solution. The company's coal is to reduce the cost and complexity of installing renewables.

Arch Padmanabhan Rao is the CEO and founder of Span. He was the head of products, application and sales engineering for Tesla Energy, a division of Tesla Motors for almost 5 years. Other team members come from the solar industry, including the company's head of growth Evelyn Fisher. She was at Sighten for four years before joining Span.

Span's panel looks a lot like Tesla's Powerwall. The Powerwall stores energy from solar panels and can power a house during outages. Span also is working with solar installers in Hawaii, where there is a significant Powerwall installation.

SpanIO is launching the new device with a select list of installers to start. Instead of going direct to consumers, Span is working with channel partners on the sale and installation of Span's first panels, including solar installers in Hawaii and California.  

SpanIO is hiring engineers so check out their job listing if you are a backend software engineer, iOS/Android Engineer, Power Electronics Controls Engineer.

Also see

span-smartpanel-interior.jpg

Source: SpanIO