Electricity consumption in the United States is projected to increase steadily over the coming decades, increasing by almost 30 percent by 2050. In 2020, the country’s largest electricity consumer was the private sector, followed by the commercial sector. With this growing reliance on electricity, load management is often touted as critical to solar and storage customers and the grid.
As part of our 2022 Energy Storage Systems Buyer’s Guide, we asked manufacturers to explain the value of load management as part of the modern solar PV and battery storage system.
Off-the-grid child’s play
Off-grid, proper load management is crucial, he says Mark Cerasuolo with Morningstar. “Customers need tools to measure, log and control loads to maximize system availability and prioritize their uptime.”
Morningstar addresses this by coupling its External Source Control (ESC) with the Morningstar GenStar DC controller, which can intelligently coordinate energy sources and system loads for maximum system performance.
“Real-time operational information can be used for automated decision-making, allowing installers to dictate system behavior according to demanding requirements.”
energy prices rise
“In the current energy landscape, not only will we see an increase in energy prices, but also a significant price swing in a single day,” he says Julia Chen, Global Director, BYD Battery Box. “This will be in response to higher-than-expected renewable generation (low or even negative prices) or higher-than-expected demand (high prices).
“Increasing exposure to such price signals can bring major environmental benefits, but only with the right technology. In this case, an intelligent energy management system will reduce energy costs while reducing dependence on expensive and polluting fossil fuels.”
Modern ESS can multitask
“Load management helps you save more by regulating your energy consumption during peak periods,” he says Vikki Kumar, Systems Engineering Manager with panasonic.
At a basic level, the Panasonic EverVolt Energy Storage System (ESS) gives homeowners the option to put the system into time-of-use mode during peak periods to offset their energy usage via the mobile app. This mode allows users to set peak times in the app based on local utility pricing structures. During this time window, the intelligent inverter ensures that the battery is discharged every day and minimizes the power consumption from the grid. The battery can also be programmed to charge only from solar energy, ensuring that excess PV power charges the batteries during the day.
“Load management is an important feature of any storage and solar system to optimize performance and maximize energy cost savings,” he says Sequoya Cross, COO of SimpliPhi, which offers monitoring and control apps such as the SimpliPHI ESS Energy Trak that manages electrical loads in relation to their generation and storage systems. “Critical backup, TOU, peak shaving and demand charge management can all be achieved with intelligent software that monitors and controls a system on-site, as well as off-site for remote troubleshooting.”
Smarter circuits for whole-home electrification
Aside from programming the battery discharge duration on the ESS, there are several devices that can be used to make load management more intelligent.
“One such example is using an intelligent load control panel that monitors the individual loads or circuits connected to the panel and can be controlled from a smartphone,” says Kumar. “This type of smart panel can either replace the entire main electrical panel in the home or be a secondary panel that monitors and controls around 6-12 circuits in the home. Likewise, there are intelligent circuit breakers that can be connected to an existing panel to monitor and control selected loads.”
“Many US homes are equipped with outdated electrical panels, which poses significant challenges for customers interested in rooftop solar panels, batteries and EV chargers,” says Miranda Barnard, Course of the Sun. “With more than 40% of energy emissions coming from fossil fuel-powered appliances in and around the home, the shift to electric-powered alternatives is becoming increasingly important as consumers seek cleaner, more cost-effective lifestyles. This often requires an upgrade of the home electrical panel.”
To accelerate whole-home electrification, Sunrun is adding SPAN home panels to its residential solar and battery offering in select markets to reduce installation barriers to the adoption of on-site power generation, EV chargers and other all-electric devices.
“SPAN smart home switchboards enable customers to improve their home’s energy resilience with solar power, create fully customizable emergency power switches, better manage home electrification upgrades, gain circuit-level visibility, and support the grid,” says Barnard .
“Load management options are getting smarter by the day and can work simultaneously with the utility to stabilize demand and supply,” says Panasonic’s Kumar, who is also partnering with SPAN and Lumin. “When integrated with machine learning algorithms, it monitors electricity usage patterns to predict home energy needs and make energy saving recommendations, making home energy management seamless.”
Counterpoint: Are smart panels a lot of technology for too little ROI?
If you are thinking specifically about adding an intelligent service panel, Andy Li, Founder and CTO of POMCube doesn’t see the value for the price considering “users aren’t getting more energy, nor are they powering more devices”.
Conversely, with a little more money, if we use it to buy additional batteries, photovoltaic panels, or even just a grid-tied inverter, we can increase the battery system’s operating hours, or use more devices during daylight hours, or activate devices with greater power demands, such as B. central air conditioning.”
He believes that system load management should focus on “channelling”. When most of the electricity demand comes from the daylight hours, it is most economical to add an additional photovoltaic inverter. If there is excess or available credit, you can add another battery and then replace the additional grid-tied inverter with an energy storage inverter, or use two parallel energy storage systems to provide full whole-home backup.
“The best way to counter rising inflation is to invest in assets that can yield higher investment returns than inflation can dilute,” says Li. “Smart panel won’t yield returns, but additional battery ESS and PV Panels will allow you to buy energy at today’s discounted price for the next 10 to 15 years. Customers need full backup for their entire home and longer hours of use from the battery.”
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