Imagine having a home that, once you leave for work for the day, begins to intelligently manage your appliances and electricity consumption, ensuring that your home is operating efficiently and maximizing its energy use. Your home will know when to run the dishwasher, start the dryer, or begin pre-heating the oven just before you arrive home to cook dinner.
This is the next generation of the solar-powered smart home, and it’s not nearly as far off as many would think. In 2017 consumers can expect to see a major increase in the number of “smart” solar products on the market. The future of solar lies in intelligent energy management, and many solar companies are developing solutions as the industry charges ahead. These products will, ideally, integrate PV, storage, monitoring and control to bring to life the vision of a smart, energy-efficient home where everything works together to function simply, maximize energy efficiency and reduce energy costs for homeowners.
The challenge in the current solar market is that PV systems of all sizes are variable, intermittent sources of power that require unique solutions for grid integration. This has created an opportunity to develop a storage value chain. The global storage market is expected to grow more than 40GW by 2022, and energy storage devices account for nearly $30 billion in revenue.
The interoperability of all devices and the ability to control the amount and time of use for each device is critical in achieving maximum energy efficiency.
Why smart residential?
PV + storage will have a major impact on residential solar. Peak demand does not necessarily follow when solar is most productive, resulting in a mismatch between demand and generation. Today, in regions with high levels of PV integration on the grid additional grid management functions, and storage, are increasingly becoming important in order to continue the transition to clean energy.
This has led to many utilities grappling with how to charge solar customers and how to factor solar power in to their rates. Utilities with a high penetration of self-generation customers claim to be losing revenue because customers are not paying what they purport to be the real cost of energy. Some residential consumers are starting to see demand charges with utility tariffs, while others still benefit from net metering. But in many cases, utilities are losing money and public utilities commissions are trying to reform their tariff structures. PV + storage allows ratepayers to use self-consumption of their energy and offset the effects of diminishing net metering incentives.
With a smart solution that provides PV + storage, homeowners will be able to store the excess PV generation in the batteries to use at a time when consumption may be higher and energy may cost more due to time-of-use rates. This creates a more stable grid and better aligns demand with generation.
Having an energy storage system with energy management features will allow the consumer to reduce his or her total peak demand from the grid, and greatly reduces demand charges from the utility. The utility benefits from a reduction in peak demand and savings from shorter operation times for natural gas peaker plants.
How does the smart home work?
In a smart home, all components are interconnected for optimal control and energy efficiency.
A truly smart home integrates PV + storage to maximize energy efficiency throughout all of the home’s operations. The interoperability of all devices and the ability to visualize and control the amount and time of use for each device is critical to achieving:
- Maximum energy efficiency
- Whole home energy management
- Net zero independence from utilities
- Reduction in peak power demand
- Elimination of demand charges
The first major component of a smart home is a battery storage inverter, which acts as the interface between the PV inverter and the high-voltage battery.
A high-voltage battery is an integral part of the smart home equation. It can be charged during the day by the PV system and discharged when the sun is down and electricity rates are often higher. Self-consumption utilizing battery power also helps avoid demand charges from the utility by reducing high power levels drawn from the grid.
Next, the home must have a PV inverter. It is essential that the PV and battery inverters work in total alignment to ensure effective operation of the intelligent home.
Another essential component is a cloud-based monitoring system, which gives a homeowner access to important information and control features. Cloud-based monitoring will allow for central management of PV system data and rapid diagnosis of any potential issues, saving the homeowner time and money.
A smart home will, ideally, automatically activate major electrical appliances at the most favorable time of day in order to utilize inexpensive solar power. This also helps avoid demand charges resulting from major appliance usage in the evening. Items including hot water heaters, solar thermal pumps, washing machines, dryers and more can be controlled in a smart home.
When combined with the appropriate charging station, it’s possible for a homeowner to use the battery in an electric vehicle as an additional electricity storage system or for separately compensated grid services.
Ideally another component of a smart home will be an electric vehicle charging station. This is a natural fit in smart homes. They share an infrastructure with many components in the system including the home’s batteries, so the opportunity to achieve additional cost-savings exists. When combined with the appropriate charging station, it’s possible for a homeowner to use the battery in an electric vehicle as an additional electricity storage system or for separately compensated grid services.
How will the smart home change our lives?
In a world of smart homes, people can leave for work and set their appliances to run during the day when electricity is cheaper. While they’re gone, their PV system will generate clean solar power and use it to power preset loads during the day, while storing the excess PV-generated electricity in the batteries for later use.
Coming home from work, homeowners can plug in their electric vehicles, which will take advantage of the previously generated electricity (at a cheaper rate) to charge the car.
If a family’s usage in the evening is high – which is often the case for most people – the smart home can pull the required energy from the electric vehicle’s batteries instead of pulling from the grid, when power is more expensive.
With more and more companies working toward smart home and storage products, it’s not hard to imagine a world in which this will become the standard in all homes.
Written by Brad Dore, Director of Marketing for SMA America