Pika Energy* makes renewable energy systems for homes and businesses that can use solar and wind power combined, or each one individually. Phillip Swanson, an application engineered there, answered some questions for us about its technology.
How long does the installation process take?
A typical Pika installation will be conducted in 2 phases. The first phase is when the ground work takes place, this process can vary slightly depending upon the tower selection and the topography at the site location. If using a guyed tower, anchors will be installed, if using a mono-pole a tower base will be constructed. At this point any underground conduit will be buried and PV racking assembled if a ground mount system is desired. The second phase would consist of the PV installation and turbine/tower raising. It is typical for an experienced crew of 4 people to install the PV, tower/turbine and electronics in a two day working session. At the end of the second day, our customers are able to see the power they are producing using our online monitoring system, REview, or by watching the sun and wind in their back yards.
Is one turbine enough to provide all the electricity for the average home?
In residential applications, a Pika system is typically sold as a solar/wind hybrid system, however we do have customers that use only wind, or only sun. This is largely dictated by the site specifics, and the solar/wind resources available. In a good windy and sunny site, our hybrid systems will cover approximately 2/3 of the average American home’s electrical consumption.
Pikas systems are unique in the way we are able to link solar and wind. Using REbus a 380 VDC (volt direct current) bus, we are able to connect multiple turbines in parallel. Solar capacity can also be increased in ~2kW increments with no changes to an existing system. This allows customers to install larger systems or increase capacity at a later date with no complicated programming or configuration.
How can a home or business owner figure out that they are in a good place with ample resources to make buying a wind turbine and operating it a good idea?
Wind turbines need a good wind resource to operate effectively. Much like solar must be installed is sunny locations with the proper azimuth and zenith angles, wind turbines should be installed on an appropriately tall tower, with unimpeded access to wind. For customers in the US and Canada, there are online resources which map annual wind speed averages, this is a great first step to determining whether a wind system will be effective. Our turbine cuts in at 3.2m/s (7mph), and we recommend that our customers have 4.5m/s (10 mph) average annual wind speed or greater to achieve optimal performance.
How long can your wind turbine operate if it is maintained properly?
Our wind turbines are designed, tested and manufactured to be tough and reliable. We submit them to third party testing and certification processes. As such, our wind turbine has no scheduled maintenance, and all components are designed with a 20 year life in mind. When the turbine is installed properly, our customers experience years and years of maintenance free energy production.
What is the warranty?
All Pika products have a 5 year warranty. Customers can purchase a warranty extension for up to 5 additional years. Pika’s own engineers provide customer service and operational support.
How much does it cost and with a reasonable amount of steady wind, how long does it take on average to pay for itself?
A typical wind/solar hybrid Pika system will cost $20,000-$25,000 installed, and a Pika wind-only system will typically cost $15,000 installed. We have DIY options and support available, too, for the customer who is more hands-on and looking to defray some of the upfront costs. The cost of payback varies significantly depending upon the wind resource, solar resource, cost of electricity, local and national incentives, and cost variations due to site specifics.
You also have a product that allows customers to combine wind power with solar.
The PV Link product allows our customers to connect 2kW of solar panels on REbus, providing easy integration with the Pika T701 wind turbine on a single inverter or charge controller. Pika’s products allow customers to combine solar and wind both for on grid, off-grid, and grid-tie with battery back-up systems. The Pika X3001 is for grid-tied and AC coupled systems, and the Pika B801 Battery Charge Controller is for off-grid applications.
How does it work?
All of Pika’s products operate on REbus, a 380 Volt DC bus. This provides design flexibility and ease of installation. The REbus smart microgrid has two primary layers of communication, that allows the electrical sources and loads to communicate and interact intelligently. Using the magnitude of the voltage on REbus, and also a power line communication protocol (PLC), Pika products are able to “talk” to each other. In addition to communication, the PLC allows us to remotely access each individual component of a Pika system to update firmware and monitor the systems production. The end result is seamless connection of many REbus compatible devices all monitored using one system.
You also have a grid-tied inverter that allows customers to make their own microgrids. What are some of the advantages of doing so?
Our inverter, the X3001, operates as the energy hub for a REbus microgrid. All communication between devices and wifi are facilitated by the X3001 for grid-tied systems. Pika is extremely forward thinking, and as the renewable input onto the utility grid increases, the grid become less able to compensate for the dynamic input that is inherent to renewable energy. We can see this happening already in markets like Hawaii and California, where the utilities are limiting the renewables that can be backfed onto the grid. There then becomes a necessity for homes and business that are producing renewable energy to store the power, using it locally, or time shifting the power delivery back to the grid when electricity is in higher demand. Pikas REbus microgrid combined with energy storage such as the Tesla PowerWall will allow customers to generate, store, and sell the energy they produce to create the maximum benefit for the consumer and the utility grid.
What energy storage products would work well with your systems?
Currently we support most battery chemistries and battery banks with nominal voltages ranging from 24V-48V DC. We are especially excited about emerging battery technologies such at the Tesla PowerWall, and also Aquion batteries. Energy storage is a quickly developing field, and Pika’s engineers are constantly improving products to ensure we are compatible with the widest range of batteries possible.
Tesla has generated huge interest with its announcement about forthcoming energy storage products. Will your technology work with Tesla’s battery systems?
Pika is currently working on a next generation of products that includes and inverter/energy hub, and more ways to capture mother nature’s clean energy. We are very excited and pleased to see that the emerging market agrees that 380V DC makes sense, with confirmations such as the Tesla PowerWall. Our products are developed to work with all possible battery types. Pika will continue to improve small wind’s value, as costs will continue to fall for PV and energy storage. We feel that in the near future, renewable energy generation and storage in homes and businesses will become as vital and ubiquitous as internet communications – new energy is the next major frontier of technology, industry and lifestyle for our planet.
Image Credit: Pika Energy
*This article was kindly supported by Pika Energy.