28 September 2011
Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management, today announced the launch of a fully functioning micro-grid solution within the solar village at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) 2011 Solar Decathlon on the National Mall.
The Decathlon is a challenge to 19 international collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The micro-grid, which connects the solar homes to the Washington, DC-area utility, Pepco, allows the village to feed excess solar energy back into the regional electric grid—providing a glimpse of what future smart communities leveraging renewable energy and micro-grid technologies could look like. Since the village's launch on 22 September 2011, it has produced 1,444 kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar power, of which the carbon impact (versus using traditional coal and gas-powered electricity) equates to the results of planting of 26 trees. For the first year ever, the accessibility of this constantly changing information is publicly available live at the event and online via intelligent, web-based energy consumption monitoring software.
As a Sustaining Sponsor of the competition, Schneider Electric, in strong partnership with fellow sponsors M.C. Dean and Pepco, supplied the technologies and engineering services required for building the micro-grid, which provides a safe and reliable electrical connection between the solar village and Pepco for the duration of the two-week event. By connecting the homes to the grid, competing teams can power their homes despite changing weather conditions and varying levels of energy demand, such as higher daytime load requirements. At the same time, because the homes generate an average of 30% more energy than they consume, the excess energy produced will be delivered to the regional electrical grid via the micro-grid and used by the greater Washington, DC community.
Schneider Electric is making the current energy balance and net energy usage of the village visible to the public via a Net Energy Dashboard kiosk in the solar village and online. Intelligent energy meters designed to monitor each house individually are integrated directly into the micro-grid infrastructure to feed the data to the kiosk. The home with the best-performing levels of energy usage will determine the overall winner of the Energy Balance portion of the competition.
Energy management products, provided by Schneider Electric to competing universities, were incorporated into more than half of the homes in the competition. These products allow the solar village to achieve optimal energy efficiency levels and make the most of its own generated energy—in turn allowing the village to feed maximum levels of clean energy back into the Washington, DC region. Although contestants are not paid for their generated electricity, permanent residences and communities that incorporate solutions, such as the micro-grid employed here, would be required to receive payment for energy provided and used by the utility.
The Solar Decathlon demonstrates the potential of houses that combine affordability, energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable-energy systems that are available today. The competition provides participating students with unique training to enter the nation's clean-energy workforce and informs the public about how they can save money with clean-energy products and design solutions.