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Too much power!

30 March 2021

Home solar systems have become quite popular.

In many countries, governments have been incentivising the installation of PVA systems in domestic environments, often by way of interest-free loans or grants. As a result of this, the amount of generation capacity attributed to renewables has increased significantly.

Unfortunately, solar generation is not always a good fit with the demands placed on the grid by consumers.

Energy demand is often higher at night than during the day, especially in the winter months. This can mean that countries reliant on fossil-fueled or nuclear generation as the backbone of their infrastructure have a hard time coping with the constantly changing demand/delivery dynamics of a power system that uses a lot of solar.

This means that things are changing in the world of home-solar, and not for the better.

When home-solar generation first kicked off, electricity companies were happy to buy "surplus" energy from those with such systems. Indeed, some countries made it compulsory for energy companies to buy that energy at a rate very comparible to the retail price.

This "infeed tariff" helped those with an excess of solar generation capacity gain savings over and above the energy they actually used themselves from their solar arrays.

As time went on however, and domestic solar generation capacity grew, it became far less economic for power companies to buy back power at times when demand was low but generation was high. Infeed prices dropped significantly as a result, to the point where increasing numbers of people have opted to go totally "off grid" and buy big batteries to soak up and regurgitate their excess generation. This makes sense once the cost of the lines fees exceeds the amount earned by infeed earnings.

Now, across the ditch in Australia, things have got so bad that the power companies are actually charging homes to feed their excess power into the grid.

I kid you not... if you want to supply the power companies with your excess solar generation during peak generation periods, you have to pay on a per-KWH infeed basis. Unbelievable!

Oh how this begs for a cheap and efficient energy storage solution for all those KWH that will otherwise just be wasted.

Those who have enough money will likely just splash out on a Tesla PowerWall or the equivalent. Throw a few undred (or thousand) Li-Ion cells in a box, add some thermal and charge/discharge management circuitry and you'll never need worry about the power company's bills ever again.

However, not everyone has that sort of dosh to throw around, especially after having forked out a princely sum to get a decent solar array in the first place.

Enter the EV!

I wonder how long before some smart cookie works out (if they haven't already) that your EV will make a fantastic battery for smoothing out the ups and downs of relying on the PVA atop your house roof?

This strategy is unlikely to work if your family relies on a single EV to get the breadwinner(s) to and from work -- since it won't be attached to the PVA during the hours of peak sunshine. However, if you have a couple of EVs or just use your EV as a "second car" then it could work pretty well. Not only will the EV soak up all those extra KWH during the sunny hours but it can also spit them back out when needed after the sun has gone down.

Even better, if you do go totally "off grid", your EV can fill in on those occasions when the "house battery" is running low and the next decent sunny day is a way off.

How does that work? Simply rip down to the local EV supercharger and fill up before driving home and reconnecting to the house. 30KWH plus of instantly usable energy now waits to be used -- tiding you over until the next burst of renewable energy arrives from your solar array.

I think we'll eventually see EVs being advertised as part of a "total energy solution" for people. Just like Tesla, the other EV companies will wake up to the fact that there's a huge market for their "tired but still useful" Li-Ion batteries and that they can repurpose those cells into domestic power reservoirs. Not only will this provide extra revenues but it will also become a great extra selling feature for their EVs.

Our attitude to energy production and use is about to change dramatically. Instead of reliance on expensive networks of unslightly pylons and overhead wires linked to generation plants, I expect that within a few short decades we will be increasingly focused on small-scale "point of use" generation via renewables such as wind and solar with "grid" power simply acting as a secondary backup. The integration of EVs as a critical component in that solution will happen sooner rather than later.

Of course I could be wrong (it has to happen eventually) -- what do you think?

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