Former Tesla Powerwall team aims to go IoT with home electrical panel

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Especially once you drive an electric car, home solar is a next step that can lower your carbon footprint, reduce your dependence on the grid, and give you an extra margin of backup power in emergencies with the right setup. 

But it’s often far too intimidating, requiring too many separate components and, to get the most out of it, regular calculations from the owner. 

Earlier this week, the startup Span revealed what it calls the Span panel, a device that aims to eliminate those concerns. It consolidates the multiple components needed for energy management with home solar or storage—including the traditional panel, gateway, and transformers—into one product, with which customers “can easily adopt solar, storage, electric vehicles, and other clean energy technologies,” the company says.

The Span panel essentially catches the home electrical panel up with the times, and makes it an internet of things (IoT) device that can be managed via smartphone app, helping you schedule vehicle charging and various home systems so that you use the least power off the grid. 

Span panel app

The effort is led by Arch Rao, the former head of Tesla Energy and it includes engineers who brought the Tesla Powerwall to market.

Aesthetically, the Span panel looks much like the Powerwall, too. It can manage energy storage and power an entire house in a pinch, during a blackout. Adding more solar or storage is a “plug-and-play” process most of the time.

“Electrical panels haven’t seen significant innovations in over three decades despite being the ideal center for controlling home energy and bringing intelligent connectivity into homes,” said Rao in a press release accompanying the product’s announcement. “We are excited to launch a product that will accelerate the adoption of renewables while transforming the customer and installer experience.”

Span also says that as solar and other distributed energy grows it could potentially be able to use the panels together as a fleet, before a true smart grid arrives some decades from now. 

The company says that installation can be done with electrical contractors just like installing a new panel. Installations of the Span panel will start with “select market leaders” in California and Hawaii later this year. Span plans to scale up production in early 2020.

If word spread that it just works, and more people are likely to feel less intimidated about going solar, that sounds like it could really accomplish some good.

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