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Funding for the project to bring clean energy and grid services into the building

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) provides $65 million to “connected communities,” expanding projects to bring clean energy and grid services into new buildings.

Households and commercial buildings in the United States consume about two-fifths of the country's total energy and three-quarters of its electricity, and make up the bulk of the peak electricity demand, which is responsible for the major charges for electricity generation and grid infrastructure . Each of these statistics points to different ways to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings.

Switching heating from fossil fuel to electricity can cut emissions directly. Using more efficient building materials, equipment and design can cut down on electricity consumption. And managing the use of electricity to match the needs of the grid can help public service companies control the most costly part of their system's defaration - reducing dependence on energy sources. The amount of fossils is adjustable.

The US Department of Energy’s $65 million grant for “connected communities” projects announced last week focuses on all three of these solutions. It builds on scores of projects across the country that combine the use of highly efficient, electrified and volitional sources of energy such as rooftop or community solar, and batteries. Store, store thermal energy and charge electric vehicles.

US Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette emphasized the need for “active” buildings with energy consumption to match grid needs when he announced funding at an event in Charlotte, North Carolina. organized by the American Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the utility company Duke Energy. “As the sophistication of our homes and workplaces advances, they will have the opportunity to play an even bigger role.”

Brouillette visited a highly efficient, all-electric home built by Meritage Homes that features thermal insulation, heat storage, storage batteries, and high efficiency solar-powered heat pumps along with appliances can change energy usage based on a landlord or public service company order. Meritage is one of a number of national housing builders displaying these technology combinations.

This is still only a tiny fraction of the more than 1 million homes built in the United States every year. But by gathering data on how to tailor offers to home builders, homebuyers, and public service companies, such projects are important steps in extending these technologies across the national, according to Ram Narayanamurthy, technical lead for EPRI's Advanced Energy Communities program, the program has been conducted dozens of such projects since 2014.

“In the past, we looked at individual silos – energy efficiency by silo, meeting demand in a silo, solar energy of customers in a silo – and they have been studied and understood according to the silos,” said Narayanamurthy. The Advanced Energy Communities study “their impact [on] the electrical system as an integrated whole, rather than as separate parts.”

That will help in designing the complete packages to cut costs, meet homeowners' expectations for comfort and convenience, and provide the ability to accommodate the load switching and grids that companies translate. public service needs. New funding from DOE will target new use cases such as mixed-use health care developments and facilities, and collect and share data for wider use.

See more: How to distinguish rooftop solar PV system from grid-connected ground

Balancing grid impacts, electrification costs and self-powered homes

Most of EPRI's first projects were conducted in California, a state with an aggressive carbon reduction goal in line with the mission that all new homes must use solar energy and achieve. “Zero energy” or don't use more energy from the grid than they generate annually.

One of EPRI's first projects in Fontana, California tested these proposals with rooftop solar panels, electric heat pumps and water heaters, along with batteries. to shift consumption away from peak hours. “We wanted to see what the future of the grid would look like if every home could be self-powered,” says Narayanamurthy.

A key finding was that “if everything were to electrify, we might have to upgrade the wiring [and] the size of the transformer” and perform other costly grid upgrades, he said. . But they have “very deep energy efficiency” – heat and seal the air to keep warm and cool while minimizing the amount of energy needed for the air conditioner – “leading to a huge reduction in the power consumption point, which is driving power grid planning . ”

Likewise, achieving energy autonomy does not necessarily require a building's consumption patterns to be adapted to the peak demand of the grid. However, running air-conditioners and appliances in the middle of the day and then cutting them down at peak times can minimize the supply-demand imbalance following the “duck curve”, which is causing grid management challenges in California and other solar-intensive regions , he said.

Another project in Clovis, Calif is currently testing these methods to switch to solar without using batteries, further reducing the cost of achieving energy autonomy. That could bring the cost of an energy autonomous home closer to the cost of a standard home, with the added solar costs balanced by long-term energy savings.

This is good news for electrification proposals in states like California, where natural gas bans are being proposed at the state and local levels. A new report from the Rocky Mountain Institute found that all-electric homes cost less to build and supply electricity, and emit less carbon than homes that use hybrid fuels. This is true in Boston, New York City, Seattle and Austin, Texas, where building codes are encouraging buildings to use entirely electricity, as well as in non-normative areas, including Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio.

Community sharing in the field of solar power and batteries

EPRI is also looking at the costs and benefits of installing solar power systems, batteries and back-up power generating equipment in homes or focusing them on community micro grids, through two projects collaborating with public services company Southern Company, one in Georgia and the other in Alabama.

The first project, 46 units at Altus at The Quarter of Pulte Homes in Atlanta, includes a voice-activated smart home controller along with rooftop solar and indoor batteries. Homebuilders are increasingly adding solar power and batteries to new projects, and falling costs are extending their approach from high-end projects to middle-income. and multi-family applications.

Signature Homes’ second project, 62 Reynolds Landing homes in Hoover, Alabama, combines smart and highly efficient appliances with a 1-megawatt solar-powered micro grid, batteries and Generator using natural gas.

Reynolds Landing uses 44% less energy than equivalent all-electric communities, according to DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, by coordinating micro-grid operations through a software platform. Volttron. It also requires 34% less electricity during peak winter hours – a key factor in the Southeast, where prolonged heating needs in the winter will hardly be met due to solar power. and wind power is not continuous.

Solar energy, the best storage and power generation system located in single homes or in a concentrated micro-grid depends on many factors. Part of that is “customer perceptions,” Narayanamurthy says. “People love to see solar panels on their roofs. But builders struggle with how to increase the selling price for solar cells because it will make them less competitive on cost. ”

But the utility company's micro grids require systems to share costs and benefits with homeowners who can move in and out of a community. Similar challenges also exist for community solar, which can be more cost-effective than rooftop solar, but requires a joint investment from a shift list. of the buyers.

At the same time, public services companies benefit by concentrating solar energy and batteries, because “this helps them manage the quality of electricity [and] the sequence of operations,” he said. Methods for harnessing individual-home-delivered energies to accomplish similar goals can be tricky, although public service firms including Vermont's Green Mountain Power are showing it can be done with the right regulatory systems.

Duke Energy, a company that has set a zero carbon emission goal by 2050, will need a host of cost-effective technologies to power when renewable energy sources are not in line with demand. Doug Esamann, the company's executive vice president of energy solutions, said at last week's event in North Carolina. “It has to be a combination of technologies: not just how we generate energy, but also how we distribute and use it.”

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