Span just landed $10.2 million in venture capital to modernize and replace one of the more basic and ubiquitous pieces of home electrical hardware — the electrical panel. Span’s ambition is to “transform the electrical panel into an intelligent gateway” and help expand the adoption of solar, energy storage and EVs.
As Span puts it, “The standard electrical panel has not seen major innovation for nearly a century.”
Span founder and CEO Arch Rao told pv magazine that as the size of rooftop solar systems increases, the electrical panel has to be replaced to grow service, for example, from 100 amps to 200 amps.
That replacement panel box can be an off-the-shelf Siemens or Square D panel — or the the solar/storage installer can install a Span smart panel that includes energy management software, an output meter, a communications gateway and a separate critical loads panel. These functions would usually require their own enclosures and wiring.
Rao said the Span smart panel provides a reconfigurable home backup during power outages with the ability to turn circuits on and off from a phone. The CEO said that Span adds sensing, actuation and logic between the busbar, where the mains come in, and the circuit breakers. The panel is interoperable with any home breaker from Schneider, Siemens, or Eaton.
The $10.2 million Series A round was led by ArcTern Ventures and joined by Capricorn Investment Group, Incite Ventures, and existing investors Congruent Ventures, Energy Foundry, Hardware Club, Incite Ventures, Ulu Ventures, Wells Fargo Strategic Capital, Wireframe Ventures, and 1/0 Capital.
Mary Powell, former CEO of Vermont utility Green Mountain Power, will join Span’s board as an independent member.
UL listing and easier installs
The CEO acknowledged the importance of the fund raising news but stressed the company’s recent UL certifications: UL standard 67 for the regular electrical panel, UL 916 for energy management equipment, and UL 869A for service equipment.
Span’s panel is designed to monitor and control up to 32 circuits, all managed through a smartphone app. When the power goes out, Span islands the house and lets homeowners choose which parts of the home they want to power.
In addition to better functionality and aesthetics, the reduction in total number of components reduces labor time by up to 50% compared to current offerings, according to the company.
Although the Span panel is more expensive than a traditional panel, Rao said that the total installed cost was roughly the same when the reduction in labor and parts count is considered.
Span has started establishing channel partnerships with solar and storage installers. The startup has a partnership with LG Chem and its initial systems use LG inverters and batteries. The CEO noted that Span will soon have other battery partners in addition to LG.
The startup is initially focused on the California and Hawaii markets. The CEO see the product as suitable for new homes and retrofits.
Rao told pv magazine, “We’ve spent the last decade installing solar and storage and we’ve seen the problems first-hand. Our panel will be in the home for next 30 to 40 years as a very capable and persistent gateaway.” He envisions the roll-out of new functions with over-the-air updates for functions such as EV charging and water heater control.