Innovations in Smart Energy in 2023
January 3, 2023
We’ve seen a lot of innovation in the smart home space over the past year, especially with the introduction of Matter as a standardization. One of the areas around our smart home project that I’m pretty sensitive to is power and batteries. As this is a greenfield build, we have the flexibility to install network (for POE) and electricity where we’ll need it during the construction process. But many existing homes don’t have that flexibility so they’re forced to rely on batteries for things like security cameras, doorbells, window shades and more.
This is why it’s been exciting to see significant advancements in battery technology in general but the next year looks to be potentially a breakthrough year. As we are in the midst of another energy crisis this is encouraging news. Rising costs and reliable access to energy are huge challenges with global impact. While this isn’t the first time that we have faced an energy crisis, there are several maturing technologies that are beginning to converge, and together, they will enable us to address this like never before.
The environment around us produces more than enough renewable energy. This is why Debbie and I are considering solar as part of our roofing solution — either the usual panel arrays or the newer shingle-type that look more like a traditional roof. And as our home will face east, we can hide solar panels on the rear west facing roof to make Debbie happy — assuming that gives us enough surface area to provide the power we’ll need. As Amarillo is statistically the windiest place in the US, wind is an option as well and there are many home turbine solutions out there. Unfortunately, our development bans them so that is off the table.
The biggest challenge is actually with storing energy and on-demand delivery to the systems that need to consume that energy. Think about a home in Florida with solar panels on a sunny day providing energy for the lights, air conditioning, appliances, etc. But what happens when the sun goes down? That’s where the energy storage comes in. With added batter solutions like Tesla PowerWall, Franklin Whole Home Battery System, Enphase IQ Battery 10T or Generac PWRcell, energy can be stored during the day to support energy needs at night. This can be accomplished with solar only or in conjunction with grid power.
Amazon is doing work in this space — they have a 150 MW battery storage system in Arizona that’s providing clean, reliable energy to their facilities there. But they’re not the only ones. Companies globally are also innovating in this space. The cloud is enabling materials research science for innovative use cases, such as integrating energy storage into the structure of the objects they aim to power. An example is a shipping vessel where the sides of the ship are actually the batteries that power it. This is just the beginning. We are also starting to see breakthroughs in long-duration storage, like molten salt, stacked blocks, and fuel cells. We’re already seeing how breakthroughs in battery technology are revolutionizing the EV industry.
Another area is the decentralization of energy. With uncertainty around energy availability, some communities are turning to microgrids. You can think of microgrids as community power harvesting, where community members use various methods to sustain themselves, reducing their reliance on traditional energy companies and the aging infrastructure. In some new neighborhood developments, they have a small microgrid, where solar is collected and shared among tenants. As we continue to see energy challenges amplified by geopolitical events and climate fluctuations, microgrids will become a viable solution for many communities around the world. And cloud technologies will play a role in enabling this. Data from solar panels, wind farms, geothermal, and hydroelectric power will be streamed, stored, monitored, and analyzed in the cloud. Machine learning will be used to analyze all energy data to predict usage spikes and prevent outages through redistribution of energy at a household-level.
We will also see IoT-based smart devices really start to take off across the globe in the coming year. This will lead to the next wave of innovations that rise from the new capabilities that these devices provide for homes and businesses. Imagine the energy savings we can get by retrofitting older buildings with energy saving technologies.
We’ve already heard the stories about how smart thermostats are saving energy without impacting comfort. I’ve covered the options extensively in previous post:
Thermostats are just one of many smart home devices that have capabilities to save energy and cost — EV chargers that schedule charging during off-peak hours for example.
In the next few years, we will see a rapid convergence of all types of smart energy technologies, as we have finally met the threshold where our technology solutions can address our critical needs. While this may not have the immediate impact that we all wish it would, together these technologies will change the way that we create, store, and consume energy in the future.
I’m curious how much thought you’ve given to the grid that supports your home. Any concerns? What are your thoughts on energy-storing technology, decentralized grids and smart consumption technologies. Have you taken steps to mitigate potential issues with power in the future at your home? A generator perhaps? An investment in a solar solution?
Let Debbie and I know in the comments, DMs and emails what you think about the coming innovations in smart energy. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’
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