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Wellington home part of innovative trial

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Wellington house is part of an innovative trial to see if solar panels, back-up energy storage and smart technology can help reduce peak electricity loads.

The Khandallah home is one of three properties in the North Island chosen for Powerco’s Smart House Programme.

The house has been fitted with solar panels, space and water heating, monitoring and controlling systems, and an energy storage system.

Powerco Research and Development Manager Jamie Silk said upgrading the electricity network to cater for the peaks in demand was expensive. Peak times were in the mornings and evenings, when most people were at home using appliances.

Encouraging customers to reduce their use of electricity from the grid during these times could reduce the need for future network investment. While at the same time, lowering energy bills for consumers.

“Powerco is an innovative company embracing new technology and the opportunity it creates to better meet customer needs,” Mr Silk said. “We are committed to supporting New Zealand’s energy future.”

Home owner and Powerco employee Richard Fletcher said it was exciting being part of the programme. It would provide valuable information for Powerco and the New Zealand energy sector.

“Obviously we're hoping that it will also result in a lower energy bill for the family and we'll be monitoring the results with interest.

“It will be fascinating to see how our habits around power use contribute to the amount we pay each month. As well as seeing how easy it is to change our patterns of use, especially with two teenagers in the house.”

Trial participants will record their experiences in a diary, helping Powerco assess engineering and behavioural aspects. The company will monitor electricity, gas and water use, temperatures and moisture levels in the homes.

The two-year trial would also be looking at solar panels and energy storage as a possible back-up supply during power cuts. Powerco and the Wellington City Council are working together to see if homes can generate their own power when disasters strike. During storms or earthquakes power supply from the grid is affected.

Wellington Acting Mayor Justin Lester is enthusiastic about the new partnership.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Powerco on the Smart House Programme.  We are eager to position Wellington at the forefront of adopting smart, clean technologies that can help reduce resource consumption and improve the quality of life of residents. This project fits nicely with our Smart Capital vision.” 

Powerco Smart House Programme
Background information

Powerco’s two-year Smart House Programme will provide specific case studies from three real life situations. Homes in Tauranga, New Plymouth and Wellington have been selected to participate in the trial.

The houses have been fitted with a mix of solar panels, insulation, space and water heating, monitoring and controlling systems, energy efficient lighting and energy storage.

The trial will focus on the following areas:

Peak load

Significant investment is needed to ensure networks can cope with peak loads, which are typically in the mornings and evenings on the coldest days. Moving electricity use out of these time slots could reduce these costs and associated consumer bills.

There is a potential to reduce peak loads by energy substitution (gas) or demand management such as pre-heating well insulated homes before peak times. Smart technology, solar panels and energy storage may also play a part in reducing peak loads, as may higher tariffs for peak use and lower tariffs off peak.

Smart technology

Smart technology provides the ability for household appliances, heating and hot water systems to be turned on and off automatically at specified times or controlled remotely through the internet. Trialing this technology will help us understand what value it can add. For example, saving consumers money by using their energy at low demand times.

Behavioural changes

The trial will look at what motivates consumers to shift their peak electricity use. This could be more comfort, clever gadgets, an increased awareness of energy consumption, or different price structures.

Solar panels

Solar panels are attracting growing public interest. Factors such as the size and angle of the PV, sun exposure and home energy use can impact on the effectiveness of solar panels. The trial aims to see if there are areas we can investigate to provide value-added services to go with solar power.

The three trial homes have all been fitted with solar panels, with differing roof angles. This will help to show which positions and angles for panels provide the best match for different home energy use (or environments).

Back-up energy storage

Powerco and the Wellington City Council are working together to find out if back-up energy storage systems are able supply power to individual homes when the electricity network is down. For example, if the power goes out after an earthquake or storm.
 

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