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Device to manage electricity aims to help solar customers save money

By Katie Anderson on September 3, 2012

A start-up business in County Durham hopes to save money for households that use solar photovoltaic panels

Home Solar Saver Co., established by Ian Reed and his wife Lindsey, deploys special equipment in homes that constantly monitors electricity usage. A wireless device streams data containing information on the type of electricity being used throughout the day and night.

If a red light is displayed, the property is drawing electricity from the National Grid. If a green light is displayed, renewable energy that has been generated by the property’s solar array is being used.

The distinction is important for households because unused or excess solar electricity is automatically exported to the National Grid. Households are then paid an agreed rate under the Feed-In Tariff system (FITs). The British Government has significantly reduced the value of FITs in recent months, cutting the rate from 43.3p per kWh to 21p per kWh in April this year. Earlier this month, the rate fell to 16p per kWh.

Households are obviously losing out if more energy is exported to the grid for less money. Home Solar Saver Co. aims to rectify this problem by managing energy more carefully.

Mr Reed explained: “Conventional systems send any unused electricity back to the grid. When the panels are generating energy during the day, let’s say when the homeowner is at work, spare electricity just gets fed back to the grid, with very little benefit to our customers”.

The entrepreneur went on to explain that his company’s wireless monitoring system switches on devices when excess electricity is being generated by solar panels. This prevents energy being exported to the grid. The benefits of this are twofold: households can use more free energy to power devices such as washing machines, dryers and kettles, whilst energy suppliers continue to pay a flat rate to customers who own active solar panels.

Mrs Reed added: “The supply companies can’t monitor what you send back, so they pay you the same amount regardless of whether you’ve sent spare electricity back to the grid or not”.

Whether the system is future-proof remains to be seen. The widespread introduction of smart meters in England and Wales may provide energy suppliers with all the information they need to accurately pay households for unused solar electricity.