Solar Control – It’s Now in Your Hands

Not so long ago, it was difficult to justify the upfront investment in solar technology – it seemed like it would take many years to recoup any initial down-payment, and there was no way to know whether the panels were operating as efficiently as they should be.

That all changed with the introduction of home energy monitoring systems – their ability to monitor solar input and control devices made it easier to capitalise on off-peak rates, avoid wasting energy and check for technical issues. The problem is, the majority of these systems had clunky, tech-heavy interfaces that required several weeks to master.

Seeing this, many companies in the Australian solar sector have been striving to streamline the monitoring process and make it more user-friendly. Now, with plug and play capability, the control of a home’s solar system has been put into the hands of the owner – literally. Through intelligent communication via smartphone apps, it is now possible to control what a solar system is doing and how it’s doing it, and manage how any accumulated energy is distributed.

One company at the forefront of this movement is Enphase Energy. It has simplified the entire monitoring process and bundled it into one neat package. Through its intuitive app, users can track energy production and monitor their system’s health. A quick overview of the day’s energy production is readily available and you can check how the weather has been influencing a system’s performance. You can even brag to your mates about your energy savings with the ‘share on social media’ function…if you want to be that guy.

Navigate to another tab and a visualisation of the home’s energy usage is available, allowing you to determine any high consumption trends. Plus, if there are any problems with your system, the app will highlight the origin and suggest some troubleshooting tips.

 Due to their size and prominence, solar panels are genuinely thought of as being the key component in the solar ensemble. However, Enphase says that it is the inverter that does all the real work – this converts direct current (DC) power into alternating current (AC) (the form that the home uses). Instead of a large centralised inverter, Enphase’s system features microinverter technology. These microinverters latch onto each individual solar PV panel, meaning that one shaded or dirty panel won’t affect the entire system, and if one panel fails, the remainder can keep operating.

Taking this a step further, the company also offers its Environ Smart Thermostat. This allows tracking of solar panel performance, as well as remote adjustment of a home’s heating and cooling.

Presenting a different take on the user-friendly model is Redback, an Australian startup. Its Smart Hybrid System allows homeowners to store energy that is generated, and use it as they please – the company says that this could one day include sharing it with neighbours. The system’s energy management software uses sophisticated algorithms to send energy where it is needed the most, from the most appropriate source – solar panels, battery, or the grid.

The Smart Hybrid System also provides users with control capacity through its integration of Internet of Things (IoT) and Energy Internet functionalities. However, it also uses the software suite to provide utilities with demand management options to ensure grid stability.