Solar Tech Talk is back with another episode! In this installment, we’re talking storage again as we meet the fine folks at FranklinWH (Franklin Whole Home) — the newest manufacturing partner to join our BayWa r.e. line card!
Our co-hosts, Jason Burnett from our technical sales team, and longtime product manager, Aaron Bingham, remind us why home storage is an essential part of today’s residential solar package — especially since batteries nowadays are actually able to do what the average homeowner expects them to do. That is, provide safe, reliable, on-demand power when there is an outage, be it a weather emergency or a simple grid interruption, plus smart energy management in everyday situations. Other market forces are also driving the future for battery storage: the approaching critical mass of electric vehicle adoption and new net metering policies that really nudge homeowners to own their power.
Watch the episode on YouTube or listen to it on Spotify:
Highlights From This Episode:
Not Too Good to Be True: Meet FranklinWH: (6:45)
Franklin Whole Home storage products are now on our BayWa r.e. warehouse shelves, and here to explain the company’s origins and the Franklin whole-home advantage is Justin Hopkins, National Sales Director for FranklinWH. Justin says “reduced compromise” was one of their design philosophies, thinking of ways for homeowners to put the grid in their back pocket, and truly own their power. The differentiator for FranklinWH is the power tech and electronics side, to create something both analog and smart to create a balanced storage-plus-energy management ecosystem.
It Takes (Only) Two: aGate and aPower: (10:10)
Justin tells Aaron and Jason about the simplicity behind FranklinWH’s two products: the aGate energy manager and the aPower storage unit. “The aGate really is a smart controller,” according to Justin. “Whether it’s solar or generator, or in the future when we see more bi-directional car charging options.” Some highlights of the aGate and aPower pairing:
- Especially great for people who already have electric cars or looking to have EVs.
- aPower combines LFP (lithium iron phosphate) high-capacity battery with proprietary inverter inside (no need for a separate inverter).
- Designed with installers in mind — especially installers who have been frustrated with past storage installs. Units come prefabricated with typically external accessories (CT, ATS, etc.) already built inside.
- Batteries readily available across the U.S., since LFP tech manufacturing is already robust and favorable for long-term price stability. “It’s the same prismatic cells you see in the new Tesla Model 3’s… the Chevys and the Ford Lightnings.”
- Extremely resilient: “It’s used to being discharged 10%, 20%, five times a day.”
- Stackability: Attach up to 15 aPower batteries to a single aGate. “Also, you can stack the batteries up to 160 Amps, or 38.4 continuous output per aGate. It’s essentially small commercial, but 240 volt.” (Jump to 15:23 mark)
- The power electronics in the aGate are sophisticated enough to detect bad voltage from the grid and act upon it. “It’s actually a safety mechanism for your home.”
Simplicity for Installers, Robustness for Homeowners: (18:33)
Jason asks Justin the key question: why is FranklinWH worth a look for solar installers?
“Across the board, what we’ve really tried to do is to create a paint-by-numbers solution for installers. Whether it’s having accessories that will allow the system to operate off-grid with PV-load side support, even though they have too much solar,” Justin says. “For the budget-minded customer, I really believe we’ve stacked everything up very incrementally, from the most basic of systems, to really advanced, complex systems… we’ve made it really easy to design this to meet customer’s needs.”
- Options for oversized arrays
- The AP Box: An “external relay CT combiner” to ease any hurdles when designing over existing solar plus storage systems.
- Main panel upgrade avoidance: “We have the additional bus rating of 280 Amps. The aGate allows for up to 160 Amps of generation input. So PV, batteries — that can be controlled and selectively routed upstream via our PCS controls. So whole-home backup of 200 panel that’s already maxed out with 40 Amp PV breaker, can now be routed to the load side of the aGate. And additional load-side generation sources — PV, battery — can be added behind the utility meter without actually upgrading the service panel, by using these features.” (Jump to 21:30 mark)
- Overcoming black starting: Like the fuel gauge on your car, aPower is designed to still hold a small power reserve even when it appears to be drained, so as to help start the battery system after heavy use during an outage. (Jump to 24:08 mark)
- Three smart circuits in the aGate allow customer control over appliances via smartphone app, helping homeowners manage their energy better.
Continuous Improvement: (28:43)
For anyone on the fence, Justin lists some of the details that installers have been keen to mention. For example, the waterproof (maybe even hurricane-proof?), error-proof aPower battery is quite heavy at 400 pounds — but while taking extra effort to move, it comes prefabricated so there is less onsite work, and you don’t have to build it onsite. (As the gang laughs: “It’s only heavy once!”) Justin also notes the installer certification program offered by FranklinWH is easy to sign up for, with a 9-module training roughly over 3-hours of time.
What else is on the roadmap for FranklinWH? “The industry is changing a lot for storage. Demand response is becoming part of the conversation more and more every day. Virtual power plants. Different programs from utilities where you can sell back the power or provide, essentially, infrastructure support to the grid during high-demand periods. There’s a lot of value in that,” Justin says. ”But, at Franklin we do not compete in the BPP space against our installers.”
Justin goes on to say that FranklinWH simply is providing the hardware. “I see installers — especially the high-volume installers — becoming aggregators over the next couple of years, and managing these assets.” Justin has this forecast: “The BPP has potential for these homeowners to maybe get some of these rebates in year one. But in year nine a new program comes out where, by discharging their battery to the grid, they get another benefit. We’re not competing for that capital against our [installer] partners. Rather, we’re supporting with hardware, and saying, ‘Go do this, this is your empire to build, not ours.”
“Go do this, this is your empire to build, not ours”
There’s so much more to this podcast than the recap above. Watch or listen to the full episode to hear the full conversation.
STT Bonus: Did you miss Justin’s “dare” to industry partners for maxing out the aPower attachments? Go back to the 16:00 mark of our show to catch the laugh. Plus, jump to the 31:45 mark for FranklinWH’s promotion for certified installers, a buy-two-get-one aPower offer, now available through June.
BayWa r.e. Solar Systems LLC supplies residential and commercial solar installers in the United States with quality solar + storage components, forecasting, business planning advice, and a community of experts. Visit www.solar-distribution.com to read our industry insights articles and stream our Solar Tech Talk and Solar Town Hall podcasts on YouTube and Spotify. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to stay connected. Ask us about our Split Pay financing program and use our industry-leading Webstore to save time, get gear shipped, and get jobs done! Part of the BayWa r.e. Global family of renewable energy companies.