The hype of electric vehicles and rooftop solar is nowhere near its peak with technology becoming more and more affordable to many. But reducing emissions does not mean reducing energy consumption, actually it is the exact opposite.
The problem is intensified by the fact that energy storage systems are still expensive and inefficient, which puts additional pressure on local energy grids to provide a lot of energy to many households at the same time, for charging EVs for example.
But, no panic. An EU project called CoSSMic, which has been underway for about one year now, is looking to develop a smart system that can control not only your personal energy consumption at home, but also that of the entire neighborhood, cutting down the need of energy storage.
As having electric vehicles and shiny solar panels on the rooftop of your house is no longer super expensive and considered extravagant, more of us are likely to invest in such technologies. However, we tend to look into the benefits it brings, and often forget to consider the limitations such as insufficient energy storage or excessive power consumption for battery charging. These two key issues are in the core of the CoSSmic project, which aims to connect individual households, producing renewable energy in a microgrid and create a sharing system, in which no storage is required and all energy is used and not wasted.
The idea is that, for example, all electric vehicles in the neighborhood are not being charged the same time, and not necessarily with the energy produced by the solar panels on their owners’ rooftops. That one has been redirected and used by a different household at the moment of generation.
Interestingly, the main problem is not related to technology. New electric appliances that can ‘communicate’ with solar panel systems have already been designed and made available on the market. The challenge, however, comes from the end-users, and more precisely, their willingness to participate in such microgrid.
In order to establish whether such system will be accepted within neighborhoods, SINTEF, the company leading the project, will test the technology in Konstanz in Germany and the Province of Caserta in Italy. These two locations have been selected solely based on the differences in population, availability of technology, and sun exposure. Not only that SINTEF will conduct a survey on people’s perception, but they will also try to establish means to motivate users, mainly by showing them the financial benefits of such microgrids.
One thing that SINTEF are particularly aware of is the fact that not everyone means well, and there will be various ways to hack and abuse the system. As part of their project, SINTEF will also focus on data security and maintenance.
Image (c) NTNU