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Solar Generators Once Only for Off-grid Living Adapt to Whole-home Backup Needs

Solar Generators Once Only for Off-grid Living Adapt to Whole-home Backup Needs

Solar generators once only for off-grid living adapt to whole-home backup needs

 | Solar Power World

August 14, 2023

Intensifying weather events related to climate change are affecting everyone globally. I have experienced an especially turbulent summer in my little corner of Northern Ohio, an area considered one of the more climate-resilient locations due to its proximity to the Great Lakes and lower risk of hurricanes and wildfires. But the summer of 2023 has seen incredible wind gusts, intense hailstorms and flash flooding. I have slogged through multiple long-term power outages and sudden flooding in my basement. My climate anxiety is at an all-time high, and I’ve been exploring backup power options.

I believe I’m part of an untapped customer segment for solar and home energy contractors — homeowners who don’t consume a lot of power or have high enough utility bills to justify a traditional solar + storage system but are still concerned about future power needs. I could easily get a natural-gas generator for emergency backup, but I want to be green and have a safer alternative for use inside the home.

In a moment of serendipity, clean energy company Nature’s Generator reached out to me the day after a lengthy power outage with the opportunity to test one of its solar generators. Through a comedy of errors, I was unable to test the unit due to its large size — the new Powerhouse Hybrid Platinum system is for full-home backup and comes with four full-size solar panels — and me being one small solar editor with limited upper body strength. But the system still piqued my interest, and I wanted to learn more.

Nature’s Generator began development of its flagship product in 2015 — a compact, solar-powered, portable generator. The original lead-acid Nature’s Generator system delivered 1.8 kW of electricity, and additional lead-based Power Pods could be added to fit a customer’s needs. It was an attractive option for off-grid situations, especially since the generator could be hooked up to portable solar panels and small wind turbines.

The product offerings from Nature’s Generator have expanded in recent years, and now the company manufactures larger, whole-home systems. The hybrid Powerhouse system is unique because it pairs lithium and lead-acid batteries — a setup not often attempted in whole-home backup. The solution is anchored by one core lithium battery with an advanced battery management system, with the ability to add cheaper lead-acid batteries for more affordable, expanded power.

The Nature’s Generator Powerhouse Hybrid Platinum system consists of one LFP battery, expandable AGM lead-acid batteries, four 410-W solar panels and a 7.2-kW output. I talked with Lawrence Zhou, CEO of Nature’s Generator, to learn more about the unique system.

SPW: What is the Nature’s Generator company mission?

LZ: Nature’s Generator is a believer that consumers shouldn’t pay for equipment they don’t need, so every one of Nature’s Generator solar-power-systems are expandable. This means people can grow their systems as their power needs grow.

Keeping consumer cost low is very important to Nature’s Generator. The company was founded on the principle that electricity should be available and affordable to everyone. Having access to affordable, reliable electricity can be life-changing and, in some cases where powering medical equipment, food preservation or heating/cooling units are involved, lifesaving. We want our products to be affordable, because if they’re affordable they will be used to help people and help the environment.

Who is typically a Nature’s Generator customer?

We want to have our products available and affordable to everyone. Our customers tend to be people that appreciate a good “bang for the buck” — people who aren’t necessarily experts in solar but want to buy a product that gives them their money’s worth. We appreciate that ethic and, in turn, work hard to ensure our products match their expectations — high quality, high performance and high value but at an affordable cost.

What is the Powerhouse system?

The Powerhouse is a solar-powered and/or wind-powered whole-home system. The Powerhouse system has a 7.2-kW, 120/240-V capacity and can power an entire home. Combined with our solar panels or our wind turbines, this generator is truly a powerhouse. This product was launched in 2022 and it’s a favorite of people looking to power an entire house with clean, renewable, climate-change-fighting technology. And, of course, the Powerhouse system is expandable and can be augmented with additional power pods to increase wattage and running time further to fit the consumer’s needs.

Why are the solar- and wind-charging options unique?

Nature’s Generator was the first to bring generators that have both solar and wind charging options to the market. The benefit of having wind charging is that, without fail, the sun sets each evening, but wind turbines can continue to power and recharge your Nature’s Generator even when it’s dark outside. Having the ability to recharge your Nature’s Generator systems with solar or wind power is a great added benefit, particularly for off-grid living.

What is the story behind the Powerhouse Hybrid Platinum system that can use both lithium and lead-acid batteries?

The Powerhouse Hybrid Platinum system was released in 2023. This specialty product was designed to save consumers money. This hybrid system can use both sealed lead-acid (SLA) and lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, giving consumers the benefits of both technologies. The LFP battery technology strengths include 6,000+ lifecycles, higher energy density and up to a 10-year lifespan. The SLA battery technology strengths include performing well in colder temperatures, high power output and an exceptionally affordable price. Plus, the hybrid Powerhouse allows consumers to upgrade without having to totally replace their old battery systems.

How are you able to use both lithium and lead-acid in the same system? 

What makes this possible is the Nature’s Generator “Eco-Intelligent Li” which is an intelligent battery management system. The Eco-Intelligent Li solves the problem of bias current and circulation in a parallel system and supports the mix of old and new lithium batteries and the intelligent mix of lithium and lead acid batteries which can give the user the best of both technologies as well as reduce system maintenance and upgrade costs — which improves the return on homeowners’ solar system investment.

One problem with many battery management systems currently on the market for lithium batteries is the discharge and charge of lithium batteries may be inconsistent if connected in parallel — a connection pattern often used for batteries in solar-powered generator systems. This means that many existing systems will suffer poor safety performance, have low energy density, have a poor ability to achieve deep discharge and won’t adopt charging and discharging of other batteries when connected in parallel.

The Nature’s Generator Eco-Intelligent Li battery management system solves these problems. It extends battery life and supports the mix of old and new LFP batteries and a mix of LFP and SLA batteries.

The Hybrid Powerhouse also uses the Eco-Intelligent Li system to solve the problem of the contradiction of energy consumption between lithium batteries. The Nature’s Generator battery management system adaptively adjusts the discharge current of old and new lithium batteries. The discharge current of a new battery is large, and the discharge current of an old battery is typically small. The Eco-Intelligent Li system provides a current sharing control strategy to ensure a common discharge of batteries, so the older batteries won’t just drain the new ones.

This means the Eco-Intelligent Li will support multi-module parallel connection, furnish a two-way automatic adjustment of output power, participate in intelligent peak shaving, support lithium and lead-acid batteries as well as the mixed use of old and new batteries, offer automatic matching of battery parameters to improve battery life and performance and allow for 100% utilization of battery capacity.

What are the advantages to the end-customer for this hybrid system?

This product was specifically designed to help customers reduce waste and save money by allowing them to upgrade their systems without needing to completely replace their old systems. Now users can enjoy the lighter weight and longer (up to 10-year) life of LFP batteries, while still having the advantage of the higher power output and the high-low temperature performance of lead-acid batteries as well as their highly affordable price.

The Nature’s Generator Platinum Hybrid Powerhouse with its Eco-Intelligent Li smart battery management system gives users the option to use both LFP and SLA battery technologies compatibly and simultaneously. This innovation will help increase the lifespan of homeowners’ solar investments, offering solutions to affordably buy, maintain, upgrade, extend and expand solar-powered generator systems. We like to say it’s a game changer.