Generating power at home is easier than ever

Generating power at home is easier than ever

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Generating renewable energy at home, particularly solar power, continues to gain ground as prices fall and homeowners and builders come to understand the long-term value.

While residential wind power has failed to gain traction, home solar power continues to grow. From production home builders incorporating solar as part of their offerings to affordable home storage batteries, it's easer than ever to reduce a home's environmental impact and reduce energy bills.

Solar Powered Production Homes

Production homebuilders are well known for having very sharp pencils. Any change, any upgrade to a proven formula must pay off for their homeowners and the bottom line. Here's a look at some production builders that are making solar power a part of their product lines.

PulteGroup, Inc. has completed construction of its zero net energy (ZNE) home prototype in Northern California. The new Pulte home, which is designed to minimize its environmentalimpact by generating as much energy as it uses, will be monitored for 12 months to evaluate its performance and identify opportunities for future enhancements.

The Pulte ZNE home prototype, which features a solar system from Solar City, aligns with California's long-term zero net energy goals by leveraging advanced design, construction and on-site renewable energy solutions. The home's design combines airtight building methods, highly efficient insulation, HVAC, lighting technologies and more, with on-site solar energy production to offset the home's greatly reduced energy consumption.

Pulte is the largest builder to participate in Pacific Gas and Electric Company's (PG&E) Zero Net Energy Production Builder Demonstration program aimed at building new homes that maximize utility grid load reduction. PG&E's demonstration program supports California's energy efficiency and climate goals that all new residential construction to be zero net energy by 2020.

A ZNE home is designed with the goal of producing as much energy as it uses during a year. To cope with fluctuations in demand, ZNE homes are typically connected to the grid, exporting electricity when there is a surplus, and drawing electricity when not enough is being produced.

Near Orlando, Lennar Homes recently debuted new home designs that include amenities such as rooftop solar, home automation and wall-to-wall connectivity as standard features in the aptly named Innovation at Storey Park. In addition to standard amenities such as home automation and high-speed data outlets, every home includes a state-of-the-art rooftop solar-energy system that produces up to 60% of the home's electricity – the first program of its kind in Florida.

Fort Lauderdale-based Stellar Homes Group is now including a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel system, with a 30-year warranty, as a standard feature in all its new homes.

Each solar panel system has a retail value of $9,160 to $16,128 per home (depending on community), and will be offered standard to buyers without raising prices to offset costs. The 5Kw PV solar panel package, combined with Stellar Homes Group's additional energy conservation features, is expected to result in an estimated energy cost savings of approximately $81,000 over 20 years. Homebuyers can choose a solar package to suit their needs and can take advantage of the 30 percent federal tax credit.

Home Solar Storage Systems

BMW will offer re-used or 2nd Life batteries from the BMW i3 hybrid as an intelligent storage solution for residential and commercial applications.

The BMW i3 battery system – from the power source of the Ultimate Driving Machine – is integrated into an intelligent storage solution for residential and commercial applications. 

BMW is the first automotive manufacturer to utilize a complete automotive high-voltage battery for energy storage. The battery storage system electrified by BMW i, enables customers to more fully realize their commitment to sustainability – and to take the next step towards energy independence. With this system, which integrates seamlessly with charging stations and solar panels, customers can offset peak energy costs and also enjoy the added security of an available backup energy supply during power outages.

BMW says the system can enable energy produced from solar panels to be used more efficiently. It can be charged during the day, taking advantage of the energy that may otherwise be underutilized while customers are typically away, to support the overall energy efficiency of their home. Because typical daily household energy usage in the US is between 15-30 kWh, the battery storage system electrified by BMW i with its 22 kWh or 33kWh capacity is ideally suited to operate a variety of appliances and entertainment devices for up to 24 hours on its own.

Another German company, sonnenBatterie, offers complete Plug-and-Play storage systems through a nationwide network of more than 30 dealers. Due to its lifespan of 10,000 charge cycles, the sonnenBatterie is well suited for daily loading and unloading – as is necessary for self-consumption of solar power. The balancing of various electricity tariffs and peak shaving for commercial users is another prominent benefit. The sonnenBatterie can also supply households with energy during power outages and brownouts. The sonnenBatterie is one of the most successful storage systems in Europe, currently its biggest market, and close to 10,000 units have already been sold worldwide.

Tesla launched its Powerwall, a 6.4 kWh rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to store energy at a residential level for self-consumption of solar power generation, emergency backup power, load shifting and other applications. Powerwall consists of Tesla’s lithium-ion battery pack, liquid thermal control system and software that receives dispatch commands from a solar inverter. The unit mounts seamlessly on a wall and is integrated with the local grid to harness excess power and give customers the flexibility to draw energy from their own reserve.

The Powerwall can store surplus solar energy not used at the time it is generated and use that energy later when the sun is not shining. This functionality can extend the environmental and cost benefits of solar. Also, the battery can provide financial savings to its owner by charging during low rate periods when demand for electricity is lower and discharging during more expensive rate periods when electricity demand is higher.

Read more about home solar power.

Topics: Building Green, Energy Audits, Energy Star, Photovoltaic / Solar Panels, Solar Power, Wind Power

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