Echelon Gets into Solar with i.LON SmartServer

| About: Echelon Corporation (ELON)
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By Jeff St. John

Echelon Corp. (NASDAQ:ELON), the maker of LonWorks building management systems and smart meters, is hoping a new partnership with the North American arm of solar power inverter maker SMA Solar Technology will give it inroads into the world of renewable energy as well.

San Jose, Calif.-based Echelon is getting into the business via its i.Lon SmartServer, which is being used by SMA America to communicate with its Sunny Central 250U and Sunny Tower inverters.

Linking inverters with systems for collecting, reporting and analyzing power and performance data is a standard task for solar power projects (see PV: You Can't Manage What You Don't Measure and Fat Spaniel Links PV Data With Satel).

SMA America is using i.Lon servers for a commercial solar photovoltaic power project in Southern California, said Steve Nguyen, director of corporate marketing for Echelon. More projects with SMA America using i.Lon servers are in the works, he said.

SMA is going the i.Lon route because Echelon's LonWorks is an open technology that interfaces with most of its clients' subsystems, cutting integration costs, Jeffrey Philpott, SMA America's director of marketing, said in a news release.

That could open up new ways to integrate inverter data to Echelon-enabled building energy management systems, Nguyen noted -and there are a lot of those out there (see Echelon Beefs Up LonWorks).

Echelon is also in the smart meter business through its Networked Energy Services division, and envisions a future in which smart meter data is integrated into building management systems.

Adding renewable power production data to the mix could be a next step in integration, Nguyen said.

"As solar becomes more commonplace, the interest in integrating will become a lot more prevalent," he said. For building managers interested in viewing solar power information alongside data for things like building HVAC and backup generator systems, "It gives them a much more holistic view of their energy interface."

Echelon is also seeking to work with wind power companies in Europe on similar lines, Ngyuyen said, though he wouldn't name the companies involved.

The $1.8 billion solar PV inverter market is seeing increased interest from investors, as its importance in optimizing solar power systems and technological advances that bring new opportunities for that optimization emerge (see Green Light post).