February 12, 2016
Pecan Street is developing an advanced prototype of Energy Switch, a home energy device that manages the flow of electricity between a home, the home’s solar panels, an on-site battery, back-up generation, and the electric grid. The effort is funded by a $1 million SunShot grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Despite significant technology advances in solar photovoltaics, batteries and other distributed energy technologies over the past decade, a critical technology gap prevents these technologies from working together. Closing this gap will require a hardware router that can intelligently move electricity between these various sources and can, when necessary, prioritize which electricity demands to serve. For example, this capability might be needed during power outages after hurricanes to ensure that refrigerators can operate or when a homeowner’s electricity demand exceeds the available energy from the battery, solar panels, and generators.
Pecan Street has already developed and successfully tested the concept in its Pike Powers Lab in Austin. The SunShot award will allow Concurrent Design and Pecan Street to produce and test a more advanced prototype that demonstrates full commercial capability and can serve as a reference design for a new category of residential energy products.
“People can install their own solar panels and a home battery. They can even buy back-up gas generators,” said Pecan Street CTO Bert Haskell, a former MCC and HelioVolt executive who is leading hardware development efforts. “But the pieces don’t integrate well, so they are far less effective than the sum of their parts. Energy Switch is, essentially, a microgrid in a box.”
Energy Switch will clear a path for widespread adoption of residential microgrids that feature solar, storage, and even back-up generators. Pecan Street’s prototype eliminates redundant components, custom onsite design, and labor costs of residential microgrids, making them simpler and less expensive to design and faster to install.
Energy Switch works with legacy residential infrastructure and appliances as well as new construction and smart appliances.
Pecan Street is conducting initial informational screenings with homeowners that would like to receive a preliminary cost estimate and sign up for our waitlist to purchase an Energy Switch. If you are interested, please complete this short survey.