Energy independence with sustainability in mind - Lifestyle NZ
Energy independence with sustainability in mind

Energy independence with sustainability in mind

Next-generation grid-connected hybrid solar power systems incorporate leading-edge, eco-friendly technology in a custom solution designed to provide true energy independence.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

If you do a search on how much energy the sun produces versus how much energy humans use, the results are quite staggering. Apparently, the total power output of the sun is 3.8 x 1026

joules per second. Now, obviously, that energy is being dissipated in every direction simultaneously, so the actual amount of energy reaching us is a mere fraction of that, but still, that’s a lot of energy being produced.

At the other end of the question, statistics around energy consumption showed that, in 2013, all of the Earth’s energy consumption came to 3.9 x 1020 joules—or, around a million joules less than the sun produces in a second.

Which then leads us to the question of how much energy actually makes it to earth and would it be enough to satisfy humanity’s needs? Turns out, the answer is yes. If you break it down into one-minute increments, approximately 3000 TWh of solar radiation makes it into the earth’s atmosphere. With global energy consumption coming out at around 110,000 TWh for the same period of time, it would take approximately 40 minutes to generate enough energy to supply that demand.

And yet, only two per cent of the world's energy generation comes from solar technology.

However, there are signs that this is changing with the number of photovoltaics coming on stream increasing year-on-year globally. In 2018, for example, 20 per cent more capacity was added to the global network, making solar the fastest growing electricity source.

“Today, homeowners have a greater number of options for systems and products than ever before,” says Regan Heal, General Manager of Infinite Energy. “Essentially, there are three categories of solar generation: totally off grid, where you generate your own electricity onsite for your own energy needs; grid-connected without batteries, where the system generates energy in real time but relies on grid-generated electricity for peak-load periods and exports excess energy to the grid.

“The third, most popular system, is a grid-connected/hybrid, which adds battery storage. Still interacting with the grid, surplus energy created throughout the day charges batteries for evening peak loads. With this system, homeowners still have the ability to export to the grid but the system prioritises usage and storage over exporting.”

Infinite Energy specifies solar panels by REC and Hyundai as both companies offer pure black panels, which create a more streamlined aesthetic in line with modern architecture.

Infinite Energy: harnessing the power of the sun

“Grid/hybrid systems are popular because they offer the greatest amount of flexibility to the homeowner—optimising energy creation/usage, smart home connectivity for even greater efficiency and realising a return on investment.

“There are three main components to the system: photovoltaics (solar panels), installed for optimum energy generation; an inverter, to convert direct current (DC) electricity into the alternating current (AC) used in homes; and, battery storage.

“All of these components have undergone massive technological advancements in recent years, becoming more efficient and, in the case of photovoltaics, much more aesthetically pleasing. When Infinite Energy was established, seven years ago, solar panel aesthetics was a big turn off for most people, particularly those at the architectural end of the market. For us, a big part of what we offer, in terms of photovoltaics, is driven by sourcing and specifying products that not only offer high-level performance but which also complement the architecture of the house, which is why we specify REC and Hyundai panels.

“Battery performance and battery life, too, has greatly improved with the move to lithium-ion—the same chemistry and technology found in EVs and smart phones. Lithium-ion batteries offer long-life capability and up to 95 per cent drawdown on a daily basis. We specify Sungrow batteries, manufactured by Samsung, as well as batteries manufactured by BYD.”

Regan says Infinite Energy also specifies Sungrow inverters, which are, essentially the brains of the system, controlling DC-AC conversion and distribution throughout the system.

“This is incredibly important when you factor in smart home controllables. The system can be configured to schedule many of those controllables—hot water heating, appliances etc—for optimum results. It’s about shifting customers to a more proactive energy usage mindset but still allowing the system to be in control.”

Inverter and battery technology has progressed to the point where Infinite Energy can create a grid-connected hybrid solar power system that can be easily accommodated within a garage or utility room.

Infinite Energy: championing energy independence

“Ours are definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution,” says Regan. “Each Infinite Energy system is designed fit for purpose based on available roof space, energy requirements and budget. As an indication, though, a standard residential system comprises 10 panels (for energy generation of 3.7–3.9kw) as a minimum, up to 18 panels (7kw).

“The key factors behind all of our systems are: energy independence and sustainability. To achieve net zero energy consumption, for example, the system needs to produce 110 per cent of the household’s annual energy consumption, which allows for some drop off in energy generation throughout the year. Cost will vary between $20,000 to $30,000 for a net zero energy system with the amount of battery storage included adding to the cost.

“Where zero net energy is not the goal, we can configure the system to provide back-up energy during prolonged network outages—an additional layer of resilience, particularly in those areas where climatic conditions can be unpredictable.

“Another aspect of the system most people want to know about and a question we regularly get asked by homeowners is, will their system generate a return on investment. The answer is yes. Typically, for most residential customers, they will realise a 12 per cent ROI annually.”

Regan says the process from initial consultation through to installation can take a couple of months.

“We conduct an assessment of the clients’ needs, design a system that is fit for purpose and present costs. Once the order is confirmed we have a target of three weeks to complete the installation. All of our installations are independently verified—which can take another couple of weeks depending on the availability of assessors—and then the system can be commissioned and our clients can enjoy their new journey to energy independence.”

Learn more about grid-connected/hybrid energy systems.

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