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The cheaper more sustainable home of the future - decentralised generation.

Posted by John Thompson on 16 January 2019 at 1:41 pm

Your future home could be 50% cheaper to run and 100% more sustainable thanks to a clever mix of solar, home batteries and software that will allow these systems to integrate seamlessly into your life.

The basic technologies, solar and battery-storage, are nothing new, but thanks to economies of scale driving down the upfront costs, efficiency increases and the evolution of management software, these systems are coming of age.

The basic system architecture will include a solar array and a home-battery. The battery can be charged directly using DC from the solar array, but an inverter will be required to allow the movement of power between the battery and the grid. Management software will be needed to decide how best to manage the generation and demand at any given moment. In addition to this, the management software may extend its reach to the control of E.V. charging and the use of other appliances around your home.

There are essentially three main ways financial savings can be achieved:

 

  1. The consumer

The bulk of these savings will likely come from you as a consumer, using more of the energy you produce from your solar array. Although solar panels provide return on investment by off-setting your normal energy bill and from the FiT, you generate the largest portion of energy during the day, when you are most likely to be out and not able to benefit from ‘free’ electricity. This power is then exported to the grid and you receive payment of, for example, 5.24 p/kWh from the FiT scheme. When you arrive home and your household demand increases, you buy this power back at an increased rate of around 12.5p/kWh. The question is, who is benefitting the most? This is where battery storage comes into play. This will be even more significant after the FiT scheme ends in a few months time as using stored energy and drawing less from the grid will help compensate for the loss of the tariff payments. If this energy from your solar array can be time-shifted, it will be available for you to use whenever you like, for free (minus the initial investment of course).

 

  1. Avoiding peak times

Energy is of course the most expensive exactly when you want to use it, but the second tip will help you avoid drawing power from the grid at peak times.

If you charge up your home-battery directly from the grid at night when the price of energy is lower, you can then draw from this reservoir of cheap stored power in the mornings, therefore allowing you to avoid the price hike. This operation is referred to as peak shaving. This helps the energy network manage peak demand, whilst allowing energy produced by wind turbines at night, to be stored and used, instead of wasted. It should also shave money off your energy bills.

A system with widely integrated smart meters should also give the benefit of a greater variety of tariffs dependant on time of use and level of demand. This should also improve our ability to time and schedule drawing energy from the grid to take advantage of cheaper energy costs.

 

Wind turbines at sunset

 

  1. Taking part in balancing the grid

The third savings stream is slightly less simple and will require help from your energy provider, but once set up, should help you earn money for minimal effort.

Large commercial consumers of power can take part in profitable demand-side response schemes where they are paid to allow their assets to preform various ‘tasks’. The specific task depends on what the power related assets are. One example of this could be turning down the assets power demand during peak times to ease the demand on the grid. The owner of this asset would then be financially rewarded for their assistance in balancing the grid.

If your asset happens to be a battery with ‘spare’ energy and you are able to push power back into the national grid when required, the financial incentive can be significant. The speed at which batteries can react to demand changes makes them a very valuable asset to those responsible for managing the grid. Your energy provider will essentially (providing permission is granted by yourself), be in control of a huge network of grid connected batteries within homes, and through the use of ‘smart software/the internet of things’ will be able to broker the sale of energy back to the grid and rewarding you with a cut of the profit for the service your battery has provided. The best thing is, you won’t even know it is happening.

There will have to be parameters set within the system management software defining the amount of charge that can be taken, when best to charge and discharge and so on, but after a while this software will learn your demand profile and be able to cater seamlessly. What’s more, it is likely that the battery in your electric vehicle will be able to get involved with all of the schemes outlined above, saving you more money, and allowing you to cut the country’s carbon footprint.

The constant theme throughout this blog-post has been one of cost cutting for you as an energy consumer. Although this is hugely important in stimulating this budding industry, it can sometimes cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture. Implementing these technologies is a major step forward in combatting the climate crisis through decarbonising the industry that is extremely damaging to our earth systems. It says a lot about our priorities when there has to be such a compelling economic case for positive change.

 

Related blogs:

Four ways our energy system is changing for the better

Get smart about smart meters

Should you buy a batter & how do you choose the right one?

 

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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