GEs version of a net zero energy home

Buildings and real estate provide countless opportunities for sustainable choices that positively impact the bottom line, safety, and energy resilience.

As we have seen recently with the increasingly intense storms of Ida, Henri, and others, we are forced to make the hard decisions of planning towards the future to protect our communities.

Irving Steel

There exist readily available technological innovations and solutions that could help provide for more efficient buildings and more energy resilience. Some of these solutions might take public and private partners in order for them to be achieved.

One existing solution is to create micro-grids of solar panels combined with a battery backup system. Utilizing a source of direct current (DC) power, buildings are able to save on average over 10 percent of their energy costs. Solar panels collect naturally readily available energy from the sun in the form of DC and can transmit that power to a house or building in order to use right away, given that the appliances and other items are also DC appliances. If they aren’t, conversion by an inverter must be made whereby energy is reduced and lost in the process. This loss, according to the Department of Energy (DOE) in the United States, says that over ten percent of energy could be lost. Is there a better way?

Definitely.

Adding a backup power and battery solution combined with an increasing number of DC appliances allows for a more viable solution.

Batteries, particularly those that are made from lithium, are able to store large amounts of energy that could be used in times of need. A recent video (please don’t pay attention to the brand of the battery!) of a family with a rather large house in Arizona demonstrated the flexibility of the solution: the family turned off their power supply from the grid for the entire weekend and only utilized their solar panels and two batteries in their garage as backup / stored energy. The family was able to use all of their appliances, ovens, TVs, and other things throughout the weekend.

Of course we must consider that Arizona has a stronger sun concentration than many other places in America or in the world, however the solution demonstrated the ability to have less reliance on the larger grid system where tremendous amounts of energy are lost, and more flexibility in terms of providing their own energy to their dwelling.

Batteries stored in the garage or basement are able to store a range of amounts of energy: anything from 10kWH to 20 or more. The batteries are able to be charged through the solar panels or from the typical power supply. There are options whereby the batteries could be leased for a small monthly payment — and insurance policy against potential storms and power outages. Imagine a week or two without energy? Now imagine, paying a small amount (or nothing at all if with solar potentially) to ensure you have energy regardless of storms or extreme weather conditions.

As we are seeing with the storms in Louisiana and Texas, these sorts of solutions would allow people to have some sort of power when the grid is completely knocked out.

Irving Steel lives in East Lyme.