Energy Data and Residential Solar: How Technology Could Encourage Adoption
- Sep 13, 2018 12:26 am GMTSep 13, 2018 12:26 am GMT
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While there is no denying the myriad benefits presented by residential solar systems, U.S. household adoption has waned in recent years for a variety of reasons. From the recently-passed Section 201 tariff to inconsistent state policies and significant customer acquisition costs, there are more than a few challenges and roadblocks standing in the way of widespread installation.
However, this trend may rapidly change, putting solar on the uptick, and home energy data may be the primary contributor behind the shift. As prices continue to decline, markets are emerging in new states and California has even issued a mandate that all new homes be installed with solar panels. As such, more households than ever before could soon be utilizing solar technologies, and they’ll want the ability to track their usage, their savings and the other benefits they’re receiving after making the switch.
The Importance of Data in Solar Installation
Thanks to the proliferation of digitization into almost every aspect of our lives, we live in a data-driven society that demands instant access, detailed analysis and information around every turn. The good news is that energy data technology can provide these answers to eager and interested homeowners curious about the perks of going solar.
In fact, tech providers around the globe are specializing in hardware and software systems that enable real-time monitoring of home electricity production and consumption delivered through a traditional electric panel. In the past, this information was delivered in a comprehensive, albeit mostly broad, home energy report that was used to help determine the size of a solar installation required by each property and the subsequent return that homeowners could expect to receive on their investment.
Now, thanks to innovative and sophisticated technology that enables the capture of more detailed data at the granular level, customers can more accurately understand how and when they’re using power and make changes accordingly. For instance, they may opt to move around some loads to enable them to be powered by solar panels. Or, they may utilize specific pricing structures, such as time-of-use models, that enable them to receive a significant cost savings benefit. They can also consider energy storage and calculate the savings they could receive off their monthly bill.
Using real-time data means that these systems are able to capture precisely when home energy use is at its highest. In return, solar installers can digest this information and use it as a selling tool to help homeowners better understand the savings and operational improvements they could see by installing residential solar systems. Not only could this catalyze the sales process, it also helps to make sure that homeowners understand fully what they’re receiving when they do decide to sign on the bottom line. In addition to helping the environment and reducing carbon emissions, solar panels can indeed help homes run more efficiently and cost-effectively yet until now, these metrics couldn’t be fully captured in a way that was compelling enough to convert.
The Ongoing Importance of Data Capture
While this kind of data can help solar installers close a deal, it’s also critical in the post-sale stage as well. How? It helps to demonstrate to homeowners that solar isn’t a flash-in-the-pan gimmick but actually delivers concrete and proven results. Delivered via detailed reports that show just how much energy was saved, stored and used, as well as how much money was saved each month, this data is often the catalyst for positive word-of-mouth recommendations that can be golden in an industry that is driven primarily by personal experience or connection.
Access to this data is also critical to helping homeowners navigate the first few months with their new solar system. For instance, many might believe that as they capture energy from the sun, they now have a bottomless supply of it to use at their leisure. As such, they use even more power than before simply because it feels “free” and are then shocked to receive a higher than average bill. By showing them where they’re using power, where they could cut back and which loads they could switch fully to solar, installers can help them more quickly recognize the cost savings they’re missing. On the utility provider side, this information is helpful to identify whether or not systems are working as designed and performance is on par.
Looking to the Future: What’s Next for Energy Data
As time goes on, expect to see even more sophisticated technology driving these energy data systems. Already, machine-learning algorithms are being paired with granular data to predict ahead of time just how much home energy a household will use within a given timeframe. With this knowledge, the automated machine can adjust its operating guidelines to ensure that an optimal supply of power is delivered to meet customer demand. As utility workers seek to keep the grid balanced, this data can also be applied to help employees make informed decisions on distribution and consumption levels.
Access to real-time data has always intrigued today’s consumer and it appears as though this technology is now available for those within the renewable energy sector and the development is both timely and promising.