Smart Grid

September 10, 2012

As Third-Party Ownership Heats Up, Itron Offers Revenue-Grade Solar Meter

Liberty Lake, Washington-based Itron, Inc. – a major smart meter player – is about to deliver a changeup pitch: The company has expanded its line-up to introduce a dedicated meter for the residential and commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) market.

The meters use 3G cellular connectivity for high-speed, secure and reliable communications.

Itron saw the opportunity to add to its roster when consumer acceptance of third-party solar ownership models took off this year, attracting more than $600 million in new investments in the U.S. alone, according to Boston-based GTM Research.

In fact, in California, Arizona and Colorado, third-party residential solar accounted for over 70 percent of total Q2 2012 installations.  

Itron’s solar offering takes advantage of this growth by enabling third-party solar providers to collect, store and upload a PV system’s production data over an existing cellular network link. The revenue-grade solar meter is built on an Itron cellular communication module for data transfer – and it truly is plug and play, connecting to a number of energy industry-standard ANSI plug-in bases.

For most residential installations of 200 amps or less, a widely available standard Form 2S is used.

The installer has the flexibility to select either AT&T (News - Alert) or Verizon as the commercial network of choice. Installing the meter in-line with the service panel feed enables the solar provider to utilize the meter’s remote disconnect capabilities to ensure safety during utility outages or modifications to the main service panel.

Itron solar meters collect interval data (at intervals typically between 15 minutes and one hour), as defined by the solar provider. Production data can be stored in the meter for up to 90 days.

What’s more: every solar meter is enabled to accept over-the-air firmware upgrades.

“Leveraging our existing technology and expertise, Itron is well-positioned for growth in the solar market. Solar and the integration of renewable energy into the grid have long been a part of our smart grid vision,” said Russ Vanos, vice president of Global Smart Grid and Business Development at Itron.

“Cellular is a natural fit for the solar market,” said Campbell McCool, Marketing Communications for Itron Cellular Solutions. “Cellular communications leverage existing infrastructure, making solar meters easy and affordable to connect, and can easily and cost-effectively scale as more solar resources are added in various locations. In addition, increasingly low rates make cellular an appealing option for solar providers.”

 Itron also offers a hosted server option, so that solar providers don’t have to worry about adding another system that in-house staff must manage and operate. With Itron Managed Services, production data is collected and provided via Web services or XML files to the solar providers' in-house systems or Web-portal systems. 

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Braden Becker