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Smart Control for Home Solar
Jamais Cascio, 13 May 05

solarmeter.jpgHot on the heels of thermostat-like controls for allocating "virtual peak capacity" to smart electricity grids comes Sharp's new system for monitoring and controlling home photovoltaics. The JH-G51X lets you watch real-time power consumption in the home, how much of a charge you're getting from solar panels and how much energy you're drawing from -- or sending to -- the grid at large.

The system also calculates how much of credit you're building up with the local power company. It's unclear if in Japan -- unlike the US or (I'm told) Canada -- you can actually get a rebate from the electricity supplier should you send more power back to the grid than you use. Around here, the lowest you can go is a $0 bill, even if you're supplying enough power for the neighborhood.

An English-language story can be found at Akihabara News. The Sharp page in Japanese is here. The Google Translation of the page is here and, although the translation is fairly funky, it's actually relatively comprehensible. In whatever language, however, the system won't be cheap -- the simplest version will run close to $3,000, and the heaviest-duty version will run nearly $4,500.

Expect to see more of these kinds of smart energy meters and controls in the coming years. Knowing how much power you're using is the first step to using less. And while small readers like the Kill-A-Watt are definitely handy, an electricity monitor that can tell you the draw and overall consumption at each outlet would be much, much better.

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Comments

Thanks for linking to the Kill-a-Watt piece. I had missed it, but am now considering buying one of these things.


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 13 May 05

Does anyone have a Kill-A-Watt and a late-model notebook? I'd like to know how the Pentium M's compare to the Apple iBooks.

Also, for laughs, I wonder what a 7x24 Dual G5 would pull ...


Posted by: odograph on 17 May 05

Re: selling energy back to the grid, see "hygrid" article in the most recent issue of Wired.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.05/solar.html

The article is frustratingly vague on some key details, and I'd love to see a breakdown of their payback calculations, but the upshot is encouraging: Improved solar technology at the residential, combined with state-level rebates and increasing willingness to buy power back from consumers, may finally be creating an environment in the U.S. to make home solar in many forms attractive to more people.

Chris


Posted by: Chris Page on 26 May 05



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