Energy management made simple
Selectronic has just celebrated its 50th birthday, for this and many other reasons it is unlike any other manufacturer in the solar industry that we have seen. Marty and I had the pleasure of meeting with none other than the founder’s son (also the Director of Marketing), Rod Scott, who showed us around the company’s headquarters in Melbourne, Australia and the attached manufacturing facility.
Selectronic does not manufacture solar inverters but rather a sophisticated multi-mode battery inverter/charger called the SP PRO. Available in a variety of sizes for off-grid or on-grid use.
To say Selectronic is modest is an understatement, the company manufactures what is possibly the most advanced grid-interactive/off-grid inverters available and yet it feels in some ways like a family run business as Rod knew each of the employees individually. Selectronic exports to countries all over the globe including Germany which is generally known as manufacturing the best solar equipment. Despite this Selectronic is not particularly well known, even in it’s home country. The reason is that Selectronic focuses on a niche of providing high-end, energy security solutions. It does not manufacture solar inverters but rather a multi-mode inverters called the SP PRO which are available in a wide variety of sizes. The SP PRO, like it's main competitor the SMA Sunny Island, is designed to be used in both off-grid and on-grid energy storage installations where battery management is required. However it is capable of so much more using possibly the most advanced software of any inverter on the market today.
NOTE: the SP PRO is available in most overseas markets, except the United States.
Before we go into detail about the SP PRO, let's be clear about exactly what it is and what it does. The SP PRO is essentially an off-grid or grid-connected battery inverter/charger. But where it really shines is when it comes to energy management due to the flexible software which drives it. It can be setup as grid connected battery backup system (UPS), a typical hybrid system, a stand-alone (off-grid) power system or a commercial energy management system. Then there are various configurations such as an AC or DC coupled system with one or more solar inverters/regulators to create a expandable solar energy storage system as well as a commercial energy management system to reduce peak loads (peak lopping). It can be used to add batteries to an existing grid-connected solar installation.
So where does it fit into the rapidly changing market with many new hybrid battery inverters, the most common being the all-in-one inverters which manage both the solar input and battery charging on one unit. All-in-one hybrid inverters while light and compact do have several limitations, the main drawback being the limited loads which can be powered by the unit and this is one area where the SP PRO shines. It is unique in that it can pass through additional power either from the grid or a back-up generator and has the highest pass through power capacity of any inverter on the market. This means that in most applications the entire home or business can be managed and backed-up by the inverter where as with the all-in-one hybrid inverters only selected loads or circuits can be backed up. Also unlike many new all-in-one inverters which have had several recalls and software bugs the SP PRO is one of the most trusted and reliable products on the market.
However, if you are looking to install a basic battery backup system on a small house or simply for economical reasons the SP PRO may not be the most economical option, being a premium product it has a premium price tag.
The SP PRO could be the product of choice for high end off-grid and hybrid systems but for the larger commercial solar with battery backup situations it does have one main limitation, this being that it is not capable of coupling more than one inverter per phase (Although we have been told this capability is on the development roadmap).
This is a specialised product designed to manage a wide range of power sources and supply very high continuous loads to ensure uninterruptible power supply (UPS) whether you are completely off the grid, connected to an unreliable electricity grid, or want an emergency power supply in the event of the occasional black out or natural disaster. The huge surge load capability and optional external pass through power capability (up to a huge 60kW or 250A per phase) of the SP PRO inverters make it applicable for wide variety of installations.
Our solar specialists who have installed hundreds of hybrid energy storage systems consider the stand out feature of the SP PRO as the software package. Having a robust and reliable grid-interactive or off-grid inverter is great but it is the software which is really responsible for monitoring and controlling the system. Selectronic's software called SP-Link is a free, customisable software package which includes some 220+ settings to enable complete control. This is particularly important with the many new battery technologies on the market which require unique charge settings and monitoring. Another bonus which is often overlooked by many manufactures is backwards compatibility. All new software and firmware upgrades released by Selectronic are compatible even with the first model SP PRO released in 2008. And to keep up to date in the world of mobile monitoring Selectronic will soon be releasing the SP-Link mobile app later in 2016.
The deeper you look into the SP PRO the more features you seem to find, incorporating 4 relay outputs for controlling loads to the multiple digital inputs and outputs it can used much like a computer PLC controller. Then there are the unique features like mid-string monitoring used for warning the if there is a faulty cell in a large battery bank (lead-acid gel or AGM), a feature which no other inverter on the market currently has built-in. This really goes to show what a relatively small company can achieve when it focuses on developing a core product.
Selectronic's inverters really speak for themselves, there are many 20+ year old off-grid installations around the world still working with the older generation Selectronic battery inverters. If you are looking to install an off-grid or hybrid installation then the SP PRO series would be hard to pass by, the price may be premium but when you are managing battery storage systems worth many thousands then it is easy to justify.
For more information and specifications see our Hybrid/off-grid Inverter and solar energy storage review