Should Solar Energy Join the "Sharing Economy"?

Anyone familiar with residential solar power has heard of the common practice of selling excess power back to the grid at the retail price. That particular practice, however, rankles traditional utilities in the US, and many utility companies are lobbying against the practice, arguing it’s unfair to homeowners who don’t have solar installations.

If you’re surprised that utility companies suddenly seem to be playing the role of consumer advocate, check out this recent article that discusses the  reasoning as well as how it's contributing to a decline in solar panel installations. Meanwhile, whichever side you come down on in this debate, there’s a very simple but interesting concept out of the UK that could help make selling power back to the grid moot: sharing excess power with neighbors.

Excess energy efficiently shared with neighbors

Mahmoud Dhimish, a PhD student at the University of Huddersfield, is working on technology that would allow clusters of homes to efficiently share solar energy, based on production and demand. In addition, he’s working on ways to detect system faults that would allow homeowners to monitor and maintain solar panel efficiency.

Because the hours of peak energy demand and peak energy production don't often coincide, solar power can end up providing a lot more power than one household needs at certain times. Dhimish is looking at solutions that will monitor and manage multiple households' demands and route electricity to homes within the network as it's needed.

Maintaining panel efficiency

To keep panels operating efficiently, Dhimish is also working on a new algorithm that will enable rapid detection of faults in solar panel installations. He has already conducted pioneering work on the impact of micro-cracks and their effect on solar panel performance and is continuing to work in this area.

You can learn more about his work in this news release.