Fight against climate change: Smart solar as an essential solution

solar power plant

The incremental impact of global warming given the uncontrolled use of fossil fuels and growing industrialization has caused a 1.5°C surge in temperatures in the current decade alone. Add to it, human activities like deforestation, overpopulation, pollution, etc., which are expected to contribute to about 70% of global warming. For industrialists looking to facilitate a change a great place to begin would be limiting the causes of air pollution – the largest contributor to climate change. According to the World Bank, air pollutants amount to around USD 8 trillion, equivalent to nearly 6% of the global GDP to the cost of health damage a year.

Coal-fired power plants and diesel-fueled vehicles are often sources of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. At the government level/enterprises level interventions need to be made to reduce air pollutants. These will require physical investment and policy reforms at the geography level. Countries eager to make a difference would do well considering these action points to encourage enterprises in limiting air pollution:

  • Energy: Promote cleaner, renewable energy sources by phasing out subsidies that reduce the use of polluting fuels
  • Transportation: Promote the use of electric vehicles (EVs), mandate the installation of catalytic converters in vehicles, and establish vehicle inspection and maintenance programs
  • Industry: Adoption of cleaner production measures, increasing use of renewable energy, installation of scrubbers and electrostatic precipitators to filter pollutants.
  • Agriculture: Discourage the use of fertilizers and promote soil improvement programs.
  • Cooking and heating: Promote clean and renewable cooking and heating solutions.

Why renewable energy will be imperative going forward

Globally, nearly 36% and in the US nearly 40% of CO2 emissions come from power plants. Energy consumption is increasing by 1-2% every year. Here’s where renewable sources will be instrumental in turning things around. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are expected to supply four-fifths of the world’s electricity by 2050. These energy sources reduce carbon emissions and help limit environmental impact. 

smart solar

Smart solar systems: beyond an efficient renewable energy solution 

Since 2009, the price of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules has dropped by nearly 80%. This has been a key driving factor for the adoption of solar systems in households as well as commercial premises. Additionally, government initiatives and the increased efficiency of PV cells are accelerating the adoption of solar systems worldwide. However, people with solar systems installed are unaware of ways in which to maximize their solar system usage. They can:

  • Save on their energy bills by controlling devices on the premises
  • Lower carbon footprints by providing visibility and insights into energy production and consumption
  • Added convenience in running their households by controlling devices remotely

A smart solar system is one that’s interconnected with the premise’s energy-consuming devices. It provides data on that specific premise’s energy consumption and its solar energy production. These systems go beyond monitoring to provide better control and a comprehensive overview of energy consumption patterns and practices to a great extent. By analyzing energy production and consumption data, households can sell up to 50% of solar energy back to the grid.

Technology providers such as carbonTRACK allow users to integrate solar systems with other appliances and operate them remotely using connected devices like smartphones. Moreover, the integration of home energy management systems with smart solar systems provides control over household devices like Apple Home. Integration of such platforms with the solar system makes it a smart and cost-effective package. This combines the visibility of a solar monitoring system with insights and control similar to that of energy management systems.

Communication devices connected with the solar system are quite prompt in sending important details from smart energy systems to cloud-based monitoring systems. Internet of Things (IoT) gateways such as Enphase IQ Gateway allows users to interact with smart solar systems through mobile apps. This also allows solar installers to provide remote maintenance and management. Benefits like easy-to-integrate technologies, remote maintenance, remote communication, and single enclosure streamline PV and storage drive wider adoption of advanced smart solar systems across geographies.

How important are smart solar systems today 

A few years ago, solar inverters consisted of a single box, into which all the solar panels fit. The arrangement had all solar panels wired together, wherein the entire system operated on an archaic panel, and all panels performed differently and lost output eventually. Even if one panel was damaged, the entire system was bound to stop functioning. However, the updated version of the solar power system with the presence of a connected environment and distributed panel grid allows the system to work despite some PV cells and also allows for remote maintenance.

Another advantage that a modern smart solar system provides is the conversion of DC to AC on the roof through a small or micro-inverter placed under each panel. This improves the performance of the entire system by increasing output by 4%-25% for each panel. Besides this, a benefit worth noting is the over-the-head AC-DC conversion which makes the system safer, especially in terms of fire. 

Companies like Enphase Energy provide a microinverter system integrated with a smart software platform that enables energy usage control. The use of Enlighten app allows users to manage energy remotely. Also, it proactively monitors the health of the solar system. This can be coupled with smart batteries, such as the Tesla Powerwall equipping the system to operate in a blackout and keep charging the battery during the day to keep the system functioning at night. The incorporation of smart technologies into the solar system makes it more reliable and efficient.

There are upcoming startups working on innovative solutions in the renewable energy sector. Currently, around 200 of them are working on developing off-grid energy solutions globally. Here’s a look at the most promising ones:

Solar system startups are constantly developing innovative solutions by integrating technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in the renewable energy sector and making it accessible to the public. These advanced integrations make the solar sector one of the fastest-growing industries around the world. Also, AI and ML help streamline solar panel installation and maintenance. For instance, researchers from Stanford University have developed a machine learning algorithm to identify the best places to install solar panels. Moreover, startups like Heliogen use interconnected system data and machine learning to analyze the most economical way for customers to use solar power. Startups operating in the solar energy space can also optimize operations and identify new revenue streams in their platforms using predictive analytics tools and AI. Some of the top startups that apply AI in the smart solar system are listed below:

There is an urgent need to find sustainable solutions for energy management without compromising the environment. More cleantech startups are expected to enter the market with new ideas to empower existing clean energy technologies. Increasing government regulations toward the reduction of carbon emissions and a sustainable environment will create opportunities for startups to restore damaged ecosystems.

With energy consumption and emissions bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels, a gamut of businesses across sectors are working to up their ante on the usage of renewable energy solutions. For over two decades Netscribes has been helping energy companies gain a comprehensive market overview and strategic insights for a tangible business edge. To know how we can help you gain in-depth market intelligence in the energy realm contact us.

Based on insights by Husen Limdiwala – Manager, Market Research team, Netscribes

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