EnaSolar's inverter sales heat up

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 09:01 31/01/2013
EnaSolar
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ
POWERING UP: From left, Enatel manufacturing manager Mike Clifford, EnaSolar global sales manager Trevor Foster, and Enatel managing director Gary Foot in the company's factory.

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Christchurch's EnaSolar is ramping up the manufacture of inverters for the solar panel industry to fit in with the building of new homes in the quake-hit city.

EnaSolar makes solar inverters to convert the energy collected by solar panels from direct current into alternating current to run appliances in homes.

EnaSolar global sales manager Trevor Foster said the conversion from direct to alternating current from the panels allowed "usable power in the house".

EnaSolar is a subsidiary of Enatel, a company established in 2002 by the team that founded Swichtec Power Systems to design and manufacture standby power solutions for telecommunications and industrial markets as well as compact batteries for forklifts.

One of Swichtec's and Enatel's founders, Christchurch businessman Dennis Chapman, trained at Tait Electronics under the late Sir Angus Tait.

Foster said the EnaSolar system could allow credits to power bills, given that the solar system could potentially feed power back into the grid particularly if a family was away from the home. It would fit with most manufacturer's solar panels.

The wider Enatel group had more than 200 employees globally and was growing. EnaSolar had about 20 manufacturing staff and five administrative staff in Christchurch.

The subsidiary now had a range of seven solar inverter systems ranging from 1.5-5 kilowatts in size, which provided a wireless monitor, meaning the homeowner could keep an eye on consumption from a personal computer or mobile device.

The company had joined with Southern Response (settling the claims and house rebuilds for failed insurer AMI) and its project manager Arrow International to supply the pre-install units for new houses. EnaSolar was also working with Stonewood Homes in the same manner.

A plastic box, to hold the inverter, and wiring to connect the solar panels to the house's switchboard could be pre-installed into new homes as they were built, Foster said. The panels could then be installed in the future.

Foster said Southern Response was installing the units in every house that was being rebuilt, at a cost of $199 plus GST. Stonewood Homes was installing them as "a standard" for new homes built with no charge to clients.

Stonewood Homes managing director Brent Mettrick said the company had received its first batch of 150 boxes before Christmas and was offering customers free installation.

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To install a solar panel system, feeding into the house's power needs, would cost around $7000 to $10,000, with the inverter adding about 30-35 per cent to that cost.

No wall protection was required for the units and they could be hosed down or easily cleaned, Foster said. They had also completed safety compliance testing in the United Kingdom and Spain.

The EnaSolar inverters were now being sold in the domestic market, with exports making up around 65 per cent of total sales. In the year to March 31, 2013 between 3000 and 3500 inverters had been sold so far.

- The Press

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