I’m about 10 days into taking part in Pure Planet’s solar panel and battery pilot, in partnership with Lightsource Labs.
We’re testing out the installation and set up of solar panels and home battery storage in a series of pilots before offering them to all our Members.
Our aim is to understand the best ways to offer solar panels and battery storage to Members to generate and store their own renewable electricity at home, as well as sell unused energy back to the grid.
For the pilot we’re also using home energy management technology – Tribe – a platform to monitor and optimise live energy generation, storage and usage.
This post is an introduction to the hardware and software I’ve started using over the last few days. You can read a bit more about the pilot partnership, the participants, and the installation process, too.
First of all, the hardware. The solar panels are on the roof (er, obviously!!) and they generate electricity and feed it into an inverter which converts it from DC into AC for use in the home, or into a battery which stores it for use later. The battery is connected to the fuse board and to a Tribe box.
This Tribe box, which sits next to your electricity smart meter, is the information hub which ‘speaks’ to the Tribe app on your phone, via your home wifi. And it’s the app which gives you information on how you’re using, storing and exporting energy generated by the solar panels.
This infographic probably explains it better:
The system is set up so that the solar panels power the house first, then top up the battery, then export to the grid, in that order.
This screengrab of the app, of the ‘flows’ section, taken last week, shows the panels generating 2.779 kW of electricity, with the house using 0.336 kW. So the rest is going into the battery, which is at 60% full.
Once the battery reaches 100% the system automatically starts to export excess electricity to the grid - Pure Planet buys the electricity and supplies it to other Pure Planet Members. I get paid for this too via Pure Planet’s Smart Export Guarantee tariff.
The app ‘flows’ view changes to this:
It’s pretty cool watching the ‘flows’ change in real time. It responds immediately to changes in the weather. Even a 10-second burst of sunlight as moving clouds race across the sky causes the app flow to show the solar generation ramping up.
Typical daily usage shows the battery at close to zero % in the morning, gradually increasing in charge throughout the morning and afternoon, usually powering the house at the same time. In the evening when the solar panels don’t get any more light, it switches to pure battery mode, and we usually last until the early hours. Unless the EV gets plugged in, in which case the battery drains much faster!
Another interesting observation is that we really don’t need full-on sunshine for the panels to generate electricity. Even on grey, cloudier days, we get close to a full battery by the afternoon, and rain doesn’t seem to make too much difference either. I suppose it’ll be a different story come the Winter, however.
The ‘graphs’ section of the app shows the same information as flows, but as an overview of a day, week or month.
Here’s an example of one day, 4 August, showing PV generation in the morning, the battery level or ‘state of charge’ (SOC) lasting through the afternoon with some exports. There’s occasional flurries of importing electricity which I imagine is cooking and making coffee.
The summary page shows the total consumption by day, month or year.
Loads is where you can add more batteries, and control charging of your EV, for example. I’m not about to add any more batteries for the foreseeable!
So, that’s my first look at the tech. There’s more to come as we start to try out the Tribe system’s more advanced features. This is when it uses machine learning of my energy usage to start predicting my consumption, and combined with weather forecasts, automate how energy is used more efficiently.
It starts to get really interesting as it means the software can predict when I will need my generated energy, how much to export back to the grid, and how much to retain in the battery.
There’ll be more posts on all that coming soon!
Happy to keep chatting about the app and basic set up here of course.