Green energy start-up Enpal aims to make solar energy accessible to everyone

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  • The demand for solar power systems has increased dramatically in light of the energy crisis.
  • Enpal is a green energy startup that aims to make solar energy accessible to all consumers.
  • Insider’s Steffen Bosse’s parents tested it.

This is an edited and translated version of an article originally published on October 5, 2022.

With the current energy crisis, the demand for solar panels has exploded.

Solar panels are difficult to test before taking the plunge due to their significant cost and infrastructure. That’s why when my parents considered going solar, I asked them to document their experience.

They had a solar power system installed in their home through German green energy unicorn Enpal, a startup backed by SoftBank Vision Fund and HV Capital, among others.

The startup aims to make solar power a realistic option for everyone through its solar panel rental model. Customers pay Enpal a monthly fee that covers the cost of panels, installation and maintenance until customers have paid for the panels.

Although the startup currently only operates in Germany, Enpal executives plan to expand beyond the country’s borders, Mario Kohle, CEO of Enpal, told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

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My parents’ house equipped with Enpal solar panels.

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I followed my parents’ experience with the company and asked them for their first review of the product and service.

“We wanted to make ourselves more independent,” my father said. He told me about their decision to get solar panels, adding that climate protection, the prospect of switching to an electric car, and increasing home value also played a part in the decision.

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Another view of my parents’ house and solar panels.

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On July 1, my parents received a quote from Enpal

The company’s website asked my parents to create an account and answer a few basic questions to get started, such as if you have a gable or a flat roof if you have skylights, how many occupants and your consumer behavior, according to my father.

“Congratulations,” the site reads, adding that a solar power system could save them between 22,000 and 27,000 euros in electricity costs, although it did not specify a period for these. savings.

The next step asked my parents to upload photos of their house and detail exactly what they wanted. They wanted to get panels, a battery storage system and a wallbox, which is a charging station for an electric car.

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The wall box.

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The sales process involved a series of video calls following automated photo submission and detailed inquiry

The first call was with a sales team consultant who walked my parents through a PowerPoint presentation.

The presentation included AI-generated images of what my parents’ house would look like after installing Enpal’s solar panels so they could see the final product.

The consultant proposed that Enpal could install 20 solar panels, providing a total output of 7.6 kilowatts peak, which is the rate at which the solar panels generate power at maximum performance.

They also suggested installing inverters, an energy storage device from Huawei and an 11 kilowatt wallbox from Starcharge.

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The UPS and the storage unit.

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My parents said that despite the standardized processes at start-up, they felt they were well-advised and individually supported.

A salesman from Enpal then sent me the various agreements that my parents asked to see before signing anything.

“We never felt rushed or ripped off,” my mom said.

However, they found one thing to worry about in a draft of their contract.

They said it included a line that as part of the deal, they also agreed to switch to Enpal as the power supplier. So if the solar panels did not produce enough and the storage unit was empty, they would draw electricity from the grid through the Enpal tariff.

At 51 cents per kilowatt-hour in the first year, the rate would have been about six cents more expensive than their local baseline provider. But they said they could back out of that at another meeting.

At the end of July, an employee of Enpal then came to inspect their house. The employee inspected the entire house, measuring and counting everything from the roof tiles to the space in the basement where the inverter and storage battery were going to be kept.

Enpal confirmed they could go ahead with the installations, but said there should be two minor changes – 18 instead of 20 solar panels with 6.84 peak kilowatts and a larger unit of storage with a capacity of 10 kilowatt hours.

My parents finalized their contract with Enpal in August a month after starting the process

They signed a contract with Enpal on August 9, with all signatures done digitally and with video identification using IDNow, which my parents said was not so easy for them.

The installation date was set for September 14 and my parents were told to keep the next day free as well. All in all, everything went smoothly and surprisingly quickly.

They then had to wait for the electrician to hook up the system, which took a week, and also for confirmation from the grid operator that everything was in place, which Enpal said could take between three and twelve weeks. .

It may seem slow, but the advantage of Enpal is that it takes care of the paperwork for you, both with the network operator and with the regulating agency.

The consultation process was also completely free and my parents only started paying the rental fee once everything was up and running.

My parents now pay about 188 euros per month

After the first 30 months, this will rise to just under 230 euros per month. With Enpal’s typical lease period of 20 years, this brings the total cost to just under 54,000 euros.

After 20 years, customers then have the option of purchasing the system for one euro.

Enpal does offer cheaper options though, with the cheapest starting at $49 per month.

Buying from another vendor would also have been significantly cheaper for my parents, and they said they had seen comparable systems between $25,000 and $35,000.

But “we didn’t want to buy from the start,” my dad said, because they would have been solely responsible for the technology after it was installed.

The whole process took less than three months

They can now use the vendor’s app to check the current system output and storage unit battery level at any time, and then schedule the use of large appliances such as their dishwasher, washing machine, etc. laundry and their dryer.

“It’s not about when the machine is full anymore, but when the storage unit is full,” my mom said.

So far the system has overproduced 45 kilowatt hours and fed it into the power grid – but my parents also had to buy around 12 kilowatt hours.

They said they hadn’t been able to save any money yet because, in addition to the rental fee they were paying Enpal, they were also paying the normal rate to their electricity supplier.

But they said they were still happy with the system. Even on cloudy and rainy days, it kicks in and fills the storage unit up to 40%, they said.

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