PowerBloc®️ Frequently Asked Questions
What is PowerBloc®️?
PowerBloc®️ is a full-integrated nano-grid. A nano-grid is a modular power system that is the primary power supply for a home. The typical PowerBloc comprises a solar array, a battery, and an inverter that forms the grid for the house. However, as a nano-grid, PowerBloc can use and store energy from the grid, a generator, or any other power source. For customers with a utility connection, the grid only contributes energy to the PowerBloc, but it no longer directly connects to the load. Wherever there is no grid, PowerBloc can also operate as an off-grid system. PowerBloc uses YouSolar’s compact, lightweight, and highly efficient power electronics, controls, and energy management system. PowerBloc is fast and easy to install and fully automated. It receives real-time solar forecasts from satellites to predict solar production for better energy management.
Who is PowerBloc for?
PowerBloc is perfect for customers who:
- Are grid-connected but experience frequent or extended power outages
PowerBloc is a primary power supply that completely insulates the home from any utility outages. PowerBloc’s high discharge batteries and high-power inverter can supply all loads in a house, including air conditioners or well pumps, regardless of whether the grid is up or not. Because PowerBloc’s inverter runs the house at all times, there are no glitches when utility power goes down. PowerBloc’s main energy source is solar. A low-power grid connection adds energy to the system when needed. During extended outages, a generator can add energy. PowerBloc can deliver up to 25 kW of continuous and 50 kW of peak power, effectively replacing a 200 Amp utility service. By default, PowerBloc does not net meter, but a small inverter that sinks excess solar energy to the grid can be added.
- Have no utility power or choose to live off the grid
PowerBloc’s grid-forming inverter is a high power off-grid inverter with the ability to doubly output for short periods. PowerBloc can use solar, small wind, or micro-hydro as renewable energy sources and a generator or fuel cell as conventional power sources. In off-grid applications, PowerBloc can deliver up to 25 kW of continuous and 50 kW of peak power, effectively providing what would be a 200 Amp utility service. PowerBloc receives hourly solar production forecasts, which are especially useful for energy management in off-grid applications.
- Want to eliminate demand charges and arbitrage time-of-use utility power rates
PowerBloc’s high discharge battery is the primary power source for the PowerBloc. With solar energy as the main source of energy, PowerBloc draws little power from the grid. PowerBloc typically cuts the required power rating of a utility connection by a factor of 30-40 x, eliminating all demand charges. PowerBloc’s battery can also be used for time-of-use price arbitrage.
- Want solar but cannot or do not wish to net-meter
PowerBloc, by default, does not grid-tie. PowerBloc allows you to have solar even if your utility does not permit grid-tied solar. PowerBloc also enables you to have solar if you simply do not want to net-meter.
- Need more power, but utility line upgrades are expensive
Some customers have an existing utility connection, but experience higher peak loads than the utility connection can deliver. Those customers can use a PowerBloc to provide the needed power and avoiding costly utility line upgrades.
- Experience poor power quality and need to protect sensitive electronic equipment
Some customers experience unstable grid power with low line voltage or power spikes, which can damage sensitive electronics. PowerBloc’s grid-forming inverter delivers high power quality.
How can I control PowerBloc?
A stunning tablet that comes with the PowerBloc shows the system performance at a glance. The home screen also serves as a clock and weather station. The tablet lets you fully control PowerBloc. Of course, you can also access your system remotely with a mobile app.
Can the PowerBloc work without the internet?
The PowerBloc does not need an Internet connection. However, an Internet connection (via Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or cellular) allows the system to receive hourly real-time solar forecasts for improved energy management. An Internet connection also allows for over-the-air software updates, remote system monitoring on our mobile app, or for YouSolar to keep an eye on the PowerBloc.
Can PowerBloc go off-grid?
Yes. With its grid-forming inverter, PowerBloc is also an off-grid system. PowerBloc’s inverter can deliver up to 50 kW of power. See the section on using PowerBloc off-grid below.
How is the PowerBloc solar array different?
You can still choose any solar panels you like, but each panel is now equipped with PowerBloc’s micro-converter. Panels no longer have to be laid out in a string but can be placed freely. Panels now also produce more energy because the micro-converter optimizes energy production per panel. The PowerBloc micro-converter makes designing a solar array as easy as possible.
Can I add a PowerBloc to my existing solar system?
PowerBloc can be integrated with existing solar arrays with a string inverter, which most legacy systems have. Each solar panel will be retro-fitted with the PowerBloc micro-converter. This retro-fit is plug-and-play and does not involve significant work. The micro-converter increases solar production, provides rapid shut down for firefighter safety, and makes the solar array ready for battery integration. The existing inverter must be set to constant voltage input, which is a feature most inverters have.
Does PowerBloc work with any solar panel?
Yes. PowerBloc can use any solar panel up to 450 W of rated capacity. You can even use different types of panels in the same solar array.
Can I put the solar array anywhere I want?
Yes. As long as the solar array is within 250 meters from the house, the YouSolar micro-converters automatically overcome line resistance.
During a power outage, can my solar recharge PowerBloc?
Yes. Solar energy that the home does not consume goes to charge the PowerBloc battery. When more solar energy is available than can be used or stored, PowerBloc throttles back the solar array to exactly match the load.
How large a solar array can I connect with PowerBloc?
PowerBloc can handle 50 kW of power from an array. If the array power exceeds 50 kW, PowerBloc will throttle back the array power.
Do I have a rapid shutdown of the solar array for firefighter safety?
Yes. If you press the “Solar On/Off” switch on the PowerBloc controller or send a command from the tablet or mobile app, PowerBloc will rapidly shut down the solar array.
Can I use a backup generator with PowerBloc?
Yes. The generator connects to the optional generator module. Generator power is seamlessly blended with other power in the system. Generators with remote start be can be automatically turned on and off by PowerBloc.
Does PowerBloc work with any existing backup generator?
Yes. PowerBloc works with any generator. Generators with remote start can be automatically turned on and off by PowerBloc.
Can my generator charge the PowerBloc battery?
Yes. All energy sources, solar or grid, seamlessly blend on the system. The energy management system decides how much power should go into the battery.
Do you have a generator ready for integration?
Yes. We can include a super-silent Yamaha generator with a remote start inside of a weather- and sound-proof housing to a PowerBloc installation.
Wind, Hydro or Fuel Cell Integration
I have a wind turbine/hydro turbine/fuel cell. Can I integrate it into PowerBloc?
Yes. You can integrate small wind, micro-hydro, or a fuel cell into PowerBloc. Power from these sources blends seamlessly in the system. YouSolar will provide the right integration module depending on the power of the energy source and whether it delivers alternating or direct current. Some wind turbine/hydro turbine/fuel cell may have controllers that make integration difficult or impossible.
Can I charge my electric vehicle (EV) with PowerBloc?
Yes. All you need to do is configure PowerBloc to have enough power to support your electric vehicle charger. PowerBloc may also require a larger battery if you want to charge at night. We recommend that you provide your typical EV charging schedule to YouSolar so that we can upload it to the energy management system. Over time PowerBloc will learn your actual charging habits.
Can I charge my EV at night from solar stored in the PoweBloc batteries?
Yes. You just have to match the right amount of battery storage with your charging requirements. With the PowerBloc, a large amount of energy storage (at the same power level) is surprisingly inexpensive.
Can I charge my EV on PowerBloc during a power outage?
Yes. The PowerBloc is a high-power nano-grid that can charge your EV at any time. However, during a power outage the amount of energy of the PowerBloc is limited to solar production and what you have in the battery. If your PowerBloc includes a generator, then it can add energy to the PowerBloc for EV charging.
Can I add a fast/super-charger to a PowerBloc?
No. The residential PowerBloc supports continuous power of 25 kW and peak power of 50 kW, effectively replacing 200 Amp utility service. Unfortunately, even a 200 Amp utility service is not enough power for fast/super-charging. PowerBloc supports Level 1 and Level 2 EV charging.
Can I use the PowerBloc off the grid?
Yes. PowerBloc’s grid-forming inverter is a high-power off-grid inverter with 2 x surge power, PowerBloc can use solar, small wind, or micro-hydro as renewable energy sources and a generator or even a fuel cell for conventional power. In off-grid applications, PowerBloc can also deliver up to 25 kW of continuous and 50 kW of peak power, effectively providing what would be a 200 Amp utility service. PowerBloc receives hourly solar production forecasts, which are especially useful for energy management in off-grid situations.
Can the PowerBloc start without any external power?
Yes. The PowerBloc battery holds charge for a very long time. We ship the battery with a state of charge of around 50%. The moment a battery module is connected and turned on, the controller has power, and the system begins to operate.
Can the PowerBloc start when the battery is depleted?
Yes. It is conceivable that the battery is so discharged that the Battery Management System will not turn on the battery. In this unlikely event, you can restart PowerBloc by inserting four AA or AAA batteries into the controller. The controller will turn on, and if you have solar or a generator, you can begin charging the battery.
Energy Management System
How does the Energy Management System work?
The energy management system (EMS) is fully automated. The EMS learns the load of the house by correlating it to weekday, weather, and season to predict hourly energy consumption by the house for three days out. The EMS then uses YouSolar’s real-time satellite-based solar forecast to predict hourly solar production for the same period. Based on this data, the EMS develops a forecast of the energy balance of your PowerBloc. PowerBloc then decides when and how much power to draw from the grid or generator. These are only some of the basic capabilities of the EMS.
Is it true that PowerBloc receives a new solar forecast every hour?
Yes. If your PowerBloc is internet-connected, we will send a new solar forecast to your system every hour. PowerBloc’s solar forecast is proprietary and is available for any location on Earth. YouSolar accesses multiple international meteorological satellites for data. We then use atmospheric models to calculate solar radiation for the site of your PowerBloc. At the time of installation of each PowerBloc, we download topographic data and create a shadow analysis of the solar array by land features. This analysis predicts when the first and last sunray hits the solar array on each day. The Energy Management System then uses each solar panel’s specification and orientation to calculate the solar power expected to be available to PowerBloc.
Can PowerBloc predict how much smoke from nearby wildfire reduces my solar production?
Yes. Weather and atmospheric satellites detect wildfire smoke plumes. YouSolar is currently calibrating our meteorological model specific to wildfire plumes with data from solar systems in California affected by the 2018 wildfires.
LED Lighting and DC Appliances
Can I run LED Lighting and DC Appliances directly from PowerBloc’s high potential direct current (HVDC) bus?
Yes. PowerBloc delivers up to 50 kW of power at 380 Volt DC. Many LED lighting systems operate on the emerging 380 V DC standard used by PowerBloc.
Existing Battery Systems
Does PowerBloc work with existing battery systems?
PowerBloc can work with nearly any battery technology. However, the integration of existing battery systems is typically only economical for large battery systems with considerable battery life left.
How does the PowerBloc work when the grid does down?
The PowerBloc is a grid-forming high-power system that is your primary power supply. On a typical day, PowerBloc does not draw any power from the utility for 90+% of the time. Therefore, a grid outage is nothing special and has no impact on the system when it occurs. There are zero glitches when the grid goes down.
What is Solar Self-Use?
Solar Self-use describes how much of the solar energy is used directly or via the battery. In a typically PowerBloc installation, self-use is 85% to 100%. Excess energy can be net-metered if desired, but often it is more cost-effective to curtail excess solar.
Does the PowerBloc net-meter?
When adequately designed, 85-100% of solar energy is self-used, and there is no strong case for net-metering. If there is high seasonal excess solar or if the house stands empty from time to time, a grid-tied inverter makes sense. This supplemental grid-tied inverter can be surprisingly small.
Can the PowerBloc battery charge from the grid?
Yes. If the PowerBloc battery can charge from the grid. You can set criteria in the Energy Management System if, when, and how much the PoweBloc’s battery charges from the grid.
How does time-of-use price arbitrage work?
If you are on a time-of-use plan, then the utility pricing tiers and schedule can be uploaded into the PowerBloc over-the-air. The energy management system then times utility power draw for minimum utility cost. Because the connection to the utility is low power, demand charges are unlikely to be relevant. The feature is available soon and may be available at the time of your installation.
How can I monitor PowerBloc operation?
You can monitor the PowerBloc operation with the user interface tablet, which connects directly to the PowerBloc controller. You can also track your home energy system over the internet using PowerBloc’s mobile app. If the internet is lost, you still have full view and control of the PowerBloc with the tablet.
During a power outage, how long will the PowerBloc batteries last?
A typical small single-family home uses 35 kWh, a mid-size home 50 kWh, and a large home 70 kWh or more per day. These consumptipon estimates exclude EV charging. A PowerBloc can have 5 kWh to 100+kWh of storage. We recommend having about 18-24 hours of battery storage. You can use the user interface tablet of PowerBloc mobile app to monitor your usage and conserve power. However, with a large enough solar array and especially with an additional generator, your home can run without utility power indefinitely.
During a power outage, how quickly does PowerBloc restore power to my home?
PowerBloc is your primary power and supplies power to your home at all times. Grid-outages are unnoticeable even to highly sensitive electronic equipment. Unlike backup generators and most home battery systems, with PowerBloc, there is no switch-over time, glitches, or even uncertainty that the system will work during an outage.
How many appliances can I back up with PowerBloc?
One single PowerBloc inverter delivers up to 25 kW of continuous and 50 kW of peak power. A PowerBloc with that much power effectively replaces a 200 Ampere (50 kW) utility service. However, to run the entire house during an outage, you need enough battery power to cover peak power in your home. Our high-discharge battery modules can deliver high power. If solar power or generator power is available, those power sources are additive to the battery power.
During a utility power outage, how do I extend the amount of time my home can run on PowerBloc?
The best way to extend your usage of PowerBloc during an outage is to limit the energy consumption of your home. You can do this by turning off high-power appliances like air conditioners, large TV, hairdryers, or electric stoves. The PowerBloc receives hourly real-time solar production forecasts, and the energy management system will project if you have to reduce consumption. If you have a generator that feeds into the PowerBloc, you may not have to reduce consumption at all.
What happens if I overload the PowerBloc?
You are very unlikely to exceed the inverter’s continuous 25 kW of power and 50 kW of peak power. However, you may overload the combined power of the grid connection, battery, and solar that feeds the inverter. To avoid this, we recommend that you size the battery power to cover the peak power in the house comfortably. (We will help you figure out your estimated peak power.) However, if you ever were to overload the system, the inverter would gently turn off. It will try to restart a few times but will then wait for user input. To restart the inverter, turn off large appliances in your home, then use the tablet user interface or mobile app to turn on the inverter. You can also press the “Inverter On/Off” button on the control module to turn on the inverter.
What happens when the batteries are empty?
Even after PowerBloc battery can no longer deliver power, it still contains the energy to operate the PowerBloc controller for many days, or even weeks, depending on your battery size. As soon as there is again solar, generator, or grid power, PowerBloc will automatically wake up and charge the batteries. The energy management system will tell you when the PowerBloc is ready to restart the inverter. Use the tablet user interface or mobile app to do so. You can also press the “Inverter On/Off” button on the control module.
What are the different components that make up a PowerBloc system?
PoweBloc is a nano-grid that comprised multiple components, which we call blocs. Each bloc connects in parallel and independently to each other. For example, each solar panel equipped with a micro-converter is a bloc, or a battery module is a bloc. Typically a PowerBloc comprises multiple solar panels, a few battery modules, a grid connection module, an inverter, and a controller. The controller receives a real-time solar production forecast (if Internet-connected), provides energy management, metering, and monitoring functions.
What does a PowerBloc system look like with all the additional equipment installed?
A PowerBloc comes in a sleek free-standing cabinet the size of a locker room cabinet that houses all battery modules, generator connection, inverter, etc. (Future PowerBlocs will come as a stackable system.) Electrically, PowerBloc sits between the utility and your home’s breaker panel. Your utility service connects to the grid connection module. The output of the inverter connects to your breaker panel replacing the original utility connection. Your local electrical code may require additional breakers and disconnect switches.
Can I later add more solar, battery storage, or a generator to PowerBloc?
Yes. The PowerBloc is a nano-grid and therefore allows you to add additional components at any time.
Does the PowerBloc require a permit from the utility?
No. The PowerBloc is designed to work without net metering and requires no permit from the utility. If it makes sense to send excess solar energy to the grid, a small grid-tied inverter can be added to PowerBloc, but this requires utility approval. In all cases, your local jurisdiction will typically require a permit for installing a solar array and any power equipment.
What are the environmental requirements for a PowerBloc installation?
The PowerBloc cabinet must be protected from direct sunlight and rain. It can operate within a wide range of temperatures. Please refer to the PowerBloc specification sheet for details. To optimize performance, avoid installing the PowerBloc cabinet in locations exposed to sustained high or low temperatures. An outdoor version of the PowerBloc cabinet (FIELD) will be available at a later time.