As more smart home and storage products become available, it is easy to imagine a world where consumers have much more control over how they use their energy.

How Storage & Solar will Create Smart Homes of the Future

Brad Dore | SMA America


The solar-powered smart home is not nearly as far off as many might think. As the solar industry charges through 2017, more and more companies are developing solar products with smart features and functionality. Ideally, these products will 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 future of solar lies in intelligent energy management. Imagine leaving for the day knowing you’re your home will intelligently manage your appliances and electricity consumption, ensuring 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.

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 control the amount and time of use for each device is critical to achieving maximum energy efficiency.


Smart Residential and Utilities

PV + storage will have a major impact on residential solar. Currently there is a discrepancy between demand and generation, because peak demand does not necessarily follow when solar is most productive. Today, in regions with high levels of PV integration on the grid, additional grid management functions and storage are becoming increasingly important to continue a smooth transition to clean energy.
As a result, many utilities are unsure of how to charge solar customers, and how solar power factors into their rates. Utilities with a high penetration of self-generation customers say they are losing revenue because customers are not paying 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 utilize self-consumption of their energy and offset the effects of diminishing net metering incentives.

Smart solutions with PV + storage will allow homeowners 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 more grid stability and better aligns demand with generation.

Ultimately, with smart homes using PV + storage, consumers will be able to reduce their total peak demand from the grid and greatly reduce demand charges from the utility.


Operating a Smart Home

A smart home consists of interconnected components to enable optimal control and energy efficiency. This is critical to achieving the following:

  • 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.

Ideally, a smart home will 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.

In some cases, another component of a smart home will be an electric vehicle charging station. This is a natural fit in smart homes. Electric vehicle charging stations share an infrastructure with many components in the system including the home’s batteries, so there is an opportunity to achieve additional cost-savings. 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.


Envision your Life with a Smart Home

In a future with 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.

When they come home in the evening, homeowners can plug in their electric vehicles (if they have one), which will take advantage of previously generated electricity (at a cheaper rate) to charge the car.

If a family’s usage in the early evening is high – which is the case for many people – the smart home can pull the necessary energy from the electric vehicle’s batteries instead of pulling from the grid, when power is more expensive.

As more smart home and storage products become available, it is easy to imagine a world where consumers have much more control over how they use their energy.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

Comments (1)

Many businesses like self storage have long been utilizing solar power to their advantage. Their need to operate around the clock means that they need to improvise on their energy usage ways. Solar has proven to help facilities reduce their utilities and be more energy-efficient along the way. This move is definitely necessary especially in the long run to save on utilities as well as to save the environment.

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