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Solar Power Meets the Internet of Things: The Smart Building Revolution

Solar Power Meets the Internet of Things: The Smart Building Revolution

Few trends in the solar energy space are as exciting as the possibilities offered by interconnected technologies. Whether it’s the coupling of solar PV arrays with battery storage for increased energy independence or the potential for blockchain to create a new market for clean energy, advances in technology keep taking solar power to the next level. As the efficiency, stability, and economic viability of solar installations continue to improve, new possibilities reveal themselves.

One growing subset of clean energy technology uses interconnected devices to monitor and manage the energy production and usage of entire buildings, making them more efficient and saving money as a result. These “smart buildings” offer a glimpse into a future in which energy generation and management are more accessible and customizable - where the power to control a building’s worth of devices fits in the palm of your hand.

The Internet of Things

What’s enabling this type of progress? The Internet of Things (IoT), which WIRED notes “is increasingly being used to define (any) objects that ‘talk’ to each other.” Encompassing devices from smartphones and remote speakers to small wearable technology like fitness bands and large smart appliances, the IoT is already reshaping the way we manage communication, health, and our homes and offices. These devices can interface with each other and with cloud-based applications or storage systems to do everything from adjusting the thermostat when we leave the house to alerting emergency personnel in the event of a heart attack or stroke.

Entrepreneur Ludovic Deblois writes in Medium that “in 2020, the Internet of Things should number 50 billion connected devices communicating with applications in the cloud, compared with ‘only’ 14 billion today. That will be an average of more than 7 objects per person on Earth…” In addition to communicating across interconnected devices to make our lives easier, these devices also collect and store massive amounts of data, which can help us eliminate waste and diagnose inefficiencies or potential dangers.

Beyond Green Buildings

The Internet of Things is also changing the way we think about the buildings in which we live and work. Nearly twenty-five years ago, the green building standard was developed to encourage sustainable, environmentally friendly, healthy building practices. The primary considerations set forward by the U.S. Green Building Council include “energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, material selection and the building's effects on its site.” Now, IoT applications can help address many of the same issues, both when included in new construction and retrofitted to systems in older buildings.

Internet of Things devices can be used to connect various building systems from HVAC and ventilation to computer servers, lights, and alarm systems. These “smart” buildings or homes are then able to integrate and process information from each system to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs. When paired with green building practices, IoT can create incredibly low-impact facilities that use less energy and produce less waste than ever before. When applied to older buildings, IoT devices can address and mitigate many issues such as water management, energy efficiency, and air quality.

As GreenTechMedia recently explored, there are several converging trends that make IoT-connected smart buildings the smart choice for building managers and owners. These include the growing market for green buildings and the higher prices that they can demand from buyers or renters, the desire for high-tech spaces (in both residential and office buildings), and a “renewed focus on space utilization and space analytics.” Smart buildings satisfy all of these needs, and many facilities are recognizing that a “building retrofit can be funded by the future reductions in energy cost.”

Solar Power Meets the Internet of Things

What’s the next step for smart buildings and homes? Imagine a systems-integrated solar installation that can provide power to a building’s interconnected devices and store the excess for use when needed (or to be sold to a nearby facility or back to the utility company). These solutions are being actively developed by innovators such as those behind WISE Power technology, which “integrates smart devices through a vendor-neutral hub to facilitate home automation as well as building management through smart HVAC, electrical, and solar plus storage solutions.”

At Solar Design Studio, we’re excited to embrace the possibilities revealed through the interconnection of solar and other technology systems. Our decades of expertise in the rapidly-changing solar market have prepared us to integrate new technologies as we design solutions that prioritize effectiveness and ROI for our clients.

Are you interested in learning more about how solar energy can add to or kick-start your smart home or office? Contact us today!

 

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Bob Solger is Mr. Solar to the Kansas City region. With a passion to forge change and be green well before it was cool to do so, Bob has led the regional market as an engineer and spokesperson for the adoption of solar energy. He completes his projects professionally and continues to inspire by teaching others how to get the most from solar installations.

Ace Wagner

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