A social network sharing excess solar energy

A social network sharing excess solar energy

(14 Nov 2017) LEADIN
A German company has created an energy network for homes by connecting solar-powered batteries to a smart grid.
Other German companies are building “energy plus” houses that produce more electricity than they need.
But, despite Germany’s boom in renewable energy, environmental organisations say that Germany needs to urgently close coal power plants in order to meet its emission targets.
STORYLINE
This two-story home on the outskirts of Berlin might look like any other house in Germany or even in Europe.
But it is somewhat different.
On the roof are 16 solar panels, creating electricity and heating for the house.
And in the basement, next to the battery, is a small box that communicates with other solar powered batteries in Germany.
The network is called the “Sonnen community” and it was created in 2016 by the battery manufacturer Sonnen.
It means that the battery here, owned by Ingolf Pernice, can share electricity with other batteries that are connected to the community.
“When I produce a lot of electricity – because the sun is shining here – then I can help other people nearby, or in Bayern for example, where the sun is not shining. In the future maybe even somewhere else in Europe,” says Pernice
“My electricity can go there. I think it is a great idea.”
Over 10,000 homes are connected to the community in Germany and it has now expanded to other countries like Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Australia.
However, because each country has a separate electricity grid, there is still no communication over country borders.
But in Germany, it means that Pernice’s solar panels can sell electricity to a member in Munich when the sun is not shining there.
It also means that Pernice can buy cheap energy from the same member in when the sun is not shining in Berlin.
Germany’s de-regulated electricity grid made it a perfect place to start a community says Felix Dembski, Vice President of Strategy for Sonnen.
“Here in Germany it is very easy,” he says.
“In Germany, we have a system where electricity companies can use the electricity grid very much like internet service providers use the internet network.”
“That means, we pay the network operator for use of the grid, and then we can both take and send electricity to any point in Germany.”
Membership of the community costs 19 euro per month.
Pernice says that cost is negligent since his electricity bills are now about 11 euro a month.
He says the whole system, including the batteries and the solar panels, will pay itself off in about 15 years.
That, however, is not the main reason for the investment.
“The main reason is that we want to do our little part in protecting the climate and help minimise the Carbon dioxide burden on the environment,” he says.
“That is the main reason. But at the same time, that we can save money and that over the years the system pays itself off. That is, of course, a bi-effect I’m also very happy with.”
Not far from Pernice’s home stands another ground-breaking building.
This one does not look like a regular house, instead, the futuristic house looks like it could be a moon outpost.
This is the F87 energy plus house, built in 2011.
The house is now is a conference venue and exhibition area, but over the years people have also lived here.
The most striking thing about it is that it always creates more electricity than it uses.
The solar panel-covered 130 square metre house creates so much excess electricity that it can also power a small electric car for 30 000 kilometres per year.
The F87 house is one of over 80 similar prototypes in Germany.
Stiglmair says all the current energy producing houses are newly built, but it is also possible to greatly improve the energy efficiency of existing houses.

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