How ‘Big Data’ Will Change The Solar Industry
The U.S. Department of Energy invests in new technology to revolutionize the landscape of solar data. Reliable solar grid data, the true performance of solar panels, and a twist to homeowner solar engagement are a few of the promises Solar.com’s big data application, PVimpact, plans to bring to the market.
The dawn of the smart home is upon us with various products connecting homes to information networks. However, Solar Big Data has yet to be captured at scale or leveraged to its potential. That is all about to change as the team behind Solar.com expands its role in the solar industry with a powerful new mobile app – PVimpact. The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded Solar.com a grant to develop a universal tool for all solar homes to connect to the information grid. The app’s dynamic capabilities will benefit homeowners, solar installers, manufacturers, and utilities by analyzing homeowners’ energy use in real time. This summer the technology will be rolling out for free to all Solar.com customers and then expanding to the rest of the U.S. residential solar market in early fall.
The DOE’s SunShot Initiative is a national effort to make solar energy cost-competitive and PVimpact has been designed to help that cause (the name is fitting as PV is a technical term for solar). The technology behind PVimpact aggregates three principal pieces of data; the homeowner’s electricity usage, solar system production, and contractual details of the solar system, and prepares it for easy analysis by homeowners, solar installers, and utility companies. Currently, none of these data points are collected together nor is there any universal technology that can capture solar production from the various metering systems on the market. Here’s the “impact” of this new technology:
Solar Homeowners – Homeowners will now have an easy way to interpret true dollar savings, receive alerts and key tips on their system, and have the ability to share this information. This all ties into Solar.com’s dedication to transparency. They further build on this principle by incorporating a map feature which allows future solar buyers to see who in their neighborhood has gone solar, how much they paid, and how much they are saving.
Solar Installers – “50% of the time or more, a user increases power consumption after going solar,” explains an owner of a prominent Southern California solar company. He goes on to add, “They don’t know how much electricity they are actually consuming.” In the solar industry, this is known as the rebound effect. Homeowners start thinking their solar systems are malfunctioning when, in fact, their total household power consumption is increasing. This gives headaches to installers to prove the system is working and it also damages their customer satisfaction. Once this installer heard about PVimpact he said, “This is a game changer.”
Solar Manufacturers – There is a very limited pool of data capturing solar equipment performance. PVimpact will have the ability to capture data on how well panels and inverters perform compared to their ratings and how well they perform in different climates and conditions. Using the compiled data, PVimpact will be the leader in aggregating solar performance data, providing valuable information to solar manufacturers.
Utilities – Consumption and production trends are in high-demand by utilities. However, they currently do not have a reliable means of gathering this information from residential solar installations. Without knowing how much power solar contributes to the grid on any given day, utilities end up with an excess generation that goes to waste. By providing utilities with this valuable data, all ratepayers will save money.