Solar panels and battery pilot - what I've learned and how much I've saved after a month

  • 24 August 2021
  • 23 replies
  • 319 views
Solar panels and battery pilot - what I've learned and how much I've saved after a month
  • Community Manager
  • 7633 replies

We’ve teamed up with Lightsource Labs to pilot the installation and running of solar panels and battery storage in a test phase before we offer this to our Members.

The aim of the pilot is to explore how much the hardware costs, how much energy it generates, how much CO2 is saved, and what kind of deals Pure Planet could offer to encourage more people to get on board. We’re also looking at how the ‘Tribe’ app works - the app which tracks energy generation, usage, and export.

You can check out the other community posts we’ve got on:

It’s been a month since my solar panels and battery were installed as part of the Pure Planet pilot to test the equipment.

This post is about what I’ve learned so far, how much I’ve saved from my bill, and how my habits at home have changed. 

Of course, this has all happened over the month of August, so I’m aware that things will look a bit different in, say, January, when we’re likely to have a little less sunshine.

First of all, how much less energy have I imported from the grid? I’ve used 50% less when looking at my average daily consumption.

This graph nicely shows my daily import before and after (and you can also spot the times when the EV got plugged in!)

Daily energy consumption - before and after installation

 

This means my Pure Planet account is now in more than one month’s worth of credit, so I’ll probably get a nice refund at my next 6-monthly account review - which is due in November. 

Here’s how my Pure Planet app energy usage page looks (showing elec only) and there’s a nice looking drop for July-Aug compared with previous months. And it’s not even been that sunny.

Pure Planet app energy usage screen

And, of course, I’ve signed up to PP’s smart export guarantee, too. So in a couple of months I’ll get a payment. 

As part of this pilot I’ve agreed that Pure Planet can take half hourly smart meter readings. This gives me and Pure Planet much more data, obviously! We’ll be offering this to all our Members soon, and using the half-hourly readings to then present the more detail in your Pure Planet app. Right now all you can see is monthly usage, which is nice but not amazing.

 

Daily habits

The only negative so far has been a few days last week when the Tribe app - that’s the app which monitors live ‘flows’ of energy between the panels, battery and consumption - went offline. So I was a bit left in the dark! Turns out that it was an issue with the server. And, yes, I did have to switch the Tribe box off and on again. But it was a useful ‘problem’ for us to experience, as we’re using this pilot to understand not just all the cool stuff, but also any niggles.

Speaking of cool stuff, there was some filming done at mine the other day, using a camera on a drone to fly above my roof and get footage of the panels, and every conceivable angle! I'll share that here in the Pure Planet Community when it’s been edited.

Anyway, in terms of daily habits. Our solar panels get the majority of the sunshine in the morning, due to the direction our roof faces. Not that it’s been very sunny lately… but still, even a little light really adds up.

What this means is that we’ve tried to time energy intensive tasks, such as washing clothes or charging the car, around late morning, or lunchtime. 

This is timed so that the battery has had time to fill up to close to 100% already, and ideally the house is mostly still powered by the solar panels directly. Then once the jobs are done, any energy taken from the battery has time in the early afternoon to be replenished. That means by the evening the house runs mostly on the battery, (ie using the oven and watching TV), and by bedtime there’s even a little left.

And then repeat the following day.

So the biggest change so far, is that I’m no longer automatically assuming that the EV should be charged at night. 

The next steps are about handing over to some machine-learning and automation. The Tribe system is designed to learn my energy consumption habits over time, and combines those with the weather forecast to export or save energy at different times of the day and week. 

I will of course report back on how that all turns out! And in other news I’ve spotted that bp Lightsource has also teamed up with a smart EV charging organisation called ‘Wallbox’ which will hopefully allow me to soon use my Nissan Leaf as an extra battery for the home, on the days when I’m not driving it. 


23 replies

@Marc Thanks. Keep it up! I suspect most will want to know what the real savings are but we need to wait 12 montHs for that. Not just your savings but also others on the trial.

Taking smart readings every 30 minutes could be of benefit to all of us if they can then show clearly in the app. We are then better able to know what we were doing or what was happening when increase in use happens. Something the IHD does not do. The data should show patterns of behaviour, such as when the kettle goes on, the washing machine etc.

Correlate that in a spreadsheet and we have lift off. But perhaps in time a user could add data in the app. If say it regularly shows an increase in consumption at 07:00 a user knows that is the kettle and adds that into the app.

All nothing to do with solar panels of course but my brain went off piste when reading about half hourly readings.

On the subject of solar I repositioned a CCTV camera three weeks ago but I have no means of connecting to mains to keep the battery charged so added a small A5 size solar panel. I charged the battery to 100% first. Three weeks on it still shows 100%.

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This is really interesting thanks @Marc 

This is really interesting thanks @Marc 

Why does that worry me @woz ?!!! :laughing::laughing::laughing:

Taking smart readings every 30 minutes could be of benefit to all of us if they can then show clearly in the app. We are then better able to know what we were doing or what was happening when increase in use happens. Something the IHD does not do. The data should show patterns of behaviour, such as when the kettle goes on, the washing machine etc.

Yep, that’s not too far off now @G4RHL I agree, this is really going to be point at which it starts to get useful.

But, and this may make you chuckle, as things stand we can only present this to you yesterday. By which I mean, we’ll take smart readings every 30 minutes, but we are only given them the following day. First they have to go the Government’s Data Communications Company. They then pass the readings on once a day, in a batch. 

@Marc Yesterday is better than yestermonth. We need to remember wait we did yesterday. Might be a challenge for some of us!

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Will the drone be picking up any of the bungalows opposite, do you think? 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

I love a bung 👍😉🏡

Fascinating @Marc 🖖!

Gotta pick up on the dependance of the app on a remote server. It’s a bit like Alexa and OK Google needing a working connection to a working remote server even when you’re local in the house trying to turn on your smart light. I know it’s not popular to build more private/distributed systems, but I wonder if the Tribe developers considered an Apple-style approach where the data and dependancy is kept more local?

I know the answer (Tribe want all the data to enjoy in the cloud), but I thought I’d ask… 😉 

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Very interesting,     especially about changing your habits so you get the most benefit from the battery, never thought about that  👍👍

It’s a microcosm of how we all can change our habits to help… 😊 

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@Marc Yesterday is better than yestermonth. We need to remember wait we did yesterday. Might be a challenge for some of us!

I sometimes struggle to remember what I did an hour ago

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This is really interesting thanks @Marc 

Why does that worry me @woz ?!!! :laughing::laughing::laughing:

haha...If I knew I’d be able to change my behaviour! (since that appears to be the current theme...)

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@Marc Yesterday is better than yestermonth. We need to remember wait we did yesterday. Might be a challenge for some of us!

I sometimes struggle to remember what I did an hour ago

🤣 me too

Will the drone be picking up any of the bungalows opposite, do you think? 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

I love a bung 👍😉🏡

Doubt it @Bev as we didn’t want to worry people. For about 30 mins though we were the coolest thing, ever, according to the local kids. Then they got bored and buggered off :laughing: Or skateboarded off, or whatever those new-fangled two-wheeler balancy things are called.

@Marc Yesterday is better than yestermonth. 

True! 

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I am really LOL 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

Fascinating @Marc 🖖!

Gotta pick up on the dependance of the app on a remote server. It’s a bit like Alexa and OK Google needing a working connection to a working remote server even when you’re local in the house trying to turn on your smart light. I know it’s not popular to build more private/distributed systems, but I wonder if the Tribe developers considered an Apple-style approach where the data and dependancy is kept more local?

I know the answer (Tribe want all the data to enjoy in the cloud), but I thought I’d ask… 😉 

Interesting angle @25 quid You mean keeping data on device. But doesn’t Homepod data go to iCloud as a back-up?

I’m not sure what their future plans are, but I suspect it won’t involve local storage, they’re much more likely to want to aggregate anonymised data for wider info. 

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Will the drone be picking up any of the bungalows opposite, do you think? 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

I love a bung 👍😉🏡

Doubt it @Bev as we didn’t want to worry people. For about 30 mins though we were the coolest thing, ever, according to the local kids. Then they got bored and buggered off :laughing: Or skateboarded off, or whatever those new-fangled two-wheeler balancy things are called.

They’re called Penny farthings @Marc, it’ll never catch on as they defy the laws of physics.

Will the drone be picking up any of the bungalows opposite, do you think? 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

I love a bung 👍😉🏡

Doubt it @Bev as we didn’t want to worry people. For about 30 mins though we were the coolest thing, ever, according to the local kids. Then they got bored and buggered off :laughing: Or skateboarded off, or whatever those new-fangled two-wheeler balancy things are called.

They’re called Penny farthings @Marc, it’ll never catch on as they defy the laws of physics.

@woz Apparently, according to the more ‘hip’ members of the PP team, they’re called hoverboards. Except, of course, they don’t hover. 

The humble hoverboard (or maybe Segway with handles missing?)

 

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@Marc LOL you’ve been watching Back to the future. They do hover.

What resolution is the video from the drone? Is it stabilised?

@Marc LOL you’ve been watching Back to the future. They do hover.

What resolution is the video from the drone? Is it stabilised?

That’s not a hoverboard @woz This is a hoverboard

 

I’ve no idea what the drone resolution was, but it’s going to be good. It was huge! Had to clear away all garden furniture so it had lots of space for take-off and landing. 

Interesting angle @25 quid You mean keeping data on device. But doesn’t Homepod data go to iCloud as a back-up?

HomeKit devices can be controlled by your iPhone/iPad etc when you’re in the same house without needing the internet or sharing data. Currently Siri interpretation happens in the cloud — in the next month or so, it’ll switch to being done on device. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/jun/07/apple-overhauls-siri-to-address-privacy-concerns-and-improve-performance

Controlling HomeKit devices when you’re outside your home requires a HomeKit Hub. This is an iPad or and AppleTV or a HomePod that is at home all the time. These communicate privately with your device when you’re out and about without sharing data with the cloud. https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT207057

HomeKit data lives only on the user’s devices. It is shared between your devices by end-to-end encryption supported by iCloud, but no data is available to iCloud. https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/security/sec99b6bb09d/web

Phew.

 

Alexa/Google do all processing in the cloud.

😊 

I wish I had known that this was going on! I have just ordered a 4.5KwH Solar and 7.2Kw battery system to be fitted in a months time! I am very interested on seeing how this leads to development of the Pure Planet Tarrifs and also feed in payments. Also have an EV on order and due to be delivered this month. 

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Bit late with my response but i have been busy honest. 

So with the savings would it be wise to ditch the gas boiler and exchange for an electric one. My thinking being that selling the excess for a small income is a waste it is better to use it yourself  and make a greater saving or even consider installing a second battery which will keep you powered up all night by setting it only to be discharged from 10pm to 6am for example.

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