May 11, 2021

Climate change calls for energy self-sufficiency. Is going Solar enough?

As fossil fuel emissions accelerate climate change, and natural disasters underscore the value of energy self-sufficiency, the case for solar power has never been stronger. Adoption is being driven as well by the integration of renewables during new housing construction; regulatory actions around carbon emissions and sustainability; and new technology solutions that make it easy for people to retrofit an existing home.

Proponents of solar energy envision it to be a key component in “net zero energy homes” – residences that produce as much renewable energy as they consume, leaving occupants with a net zero energy bill and a carbon-free household. While achieving this vision has been difficult to date, due to deployment challenges, the market for such homes will experience a 28% compound annual growth rate between 2019 and 2028, according to Navigant Research.1

So what’s changing?

Overcoming supply challenges

In both new and existing homes, generating energy from renewable sources, specifically the sun, has long been possible but not necessarily feasible. While photovoltaic (PV) solar panels work during the day when the sun is out, the typical household uses electricity most early in the morning and in the evening. So the supply doesn’t synch up with demand. The typical system is rarely producing just enough power to meet the instantaneous demand. Rather, it is routinely overproducing, relative to demand, at midday and not producing at night.

Theoretically, one could store surplus energy in a battery for later use, or sell the energy back to the grid; but battery storage is prohibitively expensive – presently €1000 per KWH of battery power needed – and grid sales no longer produce an attractive return on investment due to recent reductions in government incentive programs. Clearly, for renewable energy to make sense in residential applications today, homeowners need to self-consume while being able to adapt consumption to times of day that allow them to maximize usage.

Load management to the rescue

Technology now provides easy-to-adopt answers for homeowners who want to consume their own solar-generated electricity. One such answer is the implementation of a load-management approach that is cost effective, easy to deploy, and guarantees a quick payback. The key is to make electrical loads operate during the period of solar energy production.

Not all electrical loads can be shifted. Those involving lighting, cooking, and food preservation usually need to happen at specific times of day. However, loads powering dish washers, washing machines, hot water tanks, electric vehicles, pool pumps, and heating/cooling systems can be scheduled to synch with a home’s self-generated electricity with minimal disruption to family life. Because these power-hungry systems and appliances represent a significant percentage of daily energy consumption, running them when solar panels are in peak production can deliver significant savings. For example, in European markets, financial benefits usually account for several hundred euros annually and provide quick payback on the implementation of load management solutions.2

Automation makes it easy

Automated real-time energy monitoring and control is now possible for residential electrical systems. With the Wiser Energy system from Schneider Electric, for example, homeowners can take advantage of cheaper, off-peak energy to make the most of their solar power installation. A simple, powerful app allows them to:

  • Easily spot inefficiencies that increase energy bills
  • See what’s on in their home 24/7 to keep property safe
  • Estimate monthly energy bills
  • Take advantage of cheaper, off-peak energy to save money
  • Optimize their solar installation by monitoring its production

With the integration of smart controls via a smart algorithm,* the Wiser system will permit homeowners to optimize their solar consumption further by automating EV battery charging, hot water tank start-up, and other smart load controls.

Watch the video to find more on how Wiser has helped our customer optimize the return on Solar Panel by managing loads efficiently

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Welcome to the new energy landscape

Digitization is reshaping the energy landscape worldwide, paving the way for solar energy optimization in residential applications. Homeowners are now able to reduce their electricity bills and neutralize their carbon footprint with little or no disruption to the normal rhythms of family life. Furthermore, with the increased energy independence made possible by self-consumed solar power, people are making their homes safer and more secure in the age of climate change. Recent wildfires in California and the utility company’s subsequent power shut-down underscore the value of energy self-sufficiency.

Learn more about how Schneider Electric is helping homeowners optimize their solar energy installations through load management.

  1. The Global Zero Net Energy Housing Stock is Expected to Experience a 28% Compound Annual Growth Rate During the Next Decade
  2. Impact of load management on PV self-consumption in residential sector [White paper], Yasmina Benbrahim, Patrick Beguery, Sebastien Mathiou, Vanya Ignatova, 15.

*Currently available in select markets.

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