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SMART grid, green power

electric car charging upSo you have a roof full of photovoltaics generating power during the day – much more than your household can use in real time. What do you do with the surplus energy you’ve generated? Do you schedule all your appliances to run during the day? Or do you store it in a battery or sell it back to the grid? Gift it to your friend at the other end of the country? Charge up your electric car and use that as an energy sink in the evening?

These and other questions about the future of energy are at the centre of an MBIE-funded research project. Michael Jack in the Energy Science programme within the Physics Department, researchers in the Centre for Sustainability and researchers at Canterbury University are undertaking a major study into domestic power usage and how that may change with future technologies.

“We anticipate that there will be more renewable power generation such as wind and solar, and also changes in domestic energy demand with new domestic appliances– this will result in more variable supply and sharper demand peaks. These changes will have a major impact on the electricity grid and how electricity is priced and distributed.

One of the possibilities for dealing with the greater variability is for much greater domestic demand-side management – being able to control your electrical devices remotely through your phone or other devices in response to electricity price signals, or exploit distributed generation and energy storage options. Dr Jack likened it to ripple control on steroids – much more control and much more subtlety in controlling power usage at peak times and making smart use of periods with lower demand.

To plan for the future we really need to understand domestic demand and how it may change in the future. As part of the study researchers have placed specialised monitoring devices in more than 50 homes across the country, checking on power usage across different circuits at one minute intervals.

Two years of detailed data will allow the researchers to develop simulations to explore different possible future scenarios – the impact of new technologies and different consumer behaviours, and to understand the impact of new generation storage options as well.

As for selling your spare energy to a friend in the North Island? It’s a radical option but Jack says it’s a definite possibility …

To find out more about this research contact Dr Michael Jack, Department of Physics