Last month, Sanyo launched its line of modular "green" homes, complete with the electronic giant's own solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, water heaters and LED light fixtures.
Currently, those homes are being tested out in developments in Australia and other Asian-Pacific markets, said Alex Kelley, business development manager for solar systems with Sanyo's Environmental Solutions division.
But with Sanyo set to be acquired by fellow Japanese electronics giant Panasonic – a company with a $1 billion greentech investment plan, including solar power, energy storage and green modular homes, of its own – the U.S. market should stay tuned for these energy-smart homes to appear on its shores in the coming years, Kelley said (see Panasonic: One of the Next Green Giants?).
But Kelley didn't set a date on just when Sanyo green homes might hit the United States. It's understandable, perhaps, given that Panasonic has been reticent to say when it might target the U.S. market with its own green homes, which are now planned for Japan and possibly Europe.
Much will depend on how well the homes take off in the Asian-Pacific markets where they're being rolled out first, Kelley said.
"We haven't focused on the U.S. to date because to some degree" the market hasn't been demanding these smaller, more energy efficient homes, he said. Obviously, the U.S. housing market crash could also affect future plans there, he said.
"If the U.S. isn't demanding smart home systems, we're not going to spend a lot of time on it," he said. "But we see that changing."
Certainly the Obama Administration has been pouring billions of dollars of stimulus funding into making homes more energy-efficient, and is considering adding billions more (see Green Light post).
Sanyo isn't just making solar panels, batteries, HVAC and lighting systems for its new homes – it also wants to help control them and link them with the world outside their walls, Kelley said.
"The focus on energy reduction and building systems is driving us to develop energy management brains, if you will," he added, describing energy management systems to allow its green homes to interface to a surrounding smart grid.
The idea would be an integrated communications and controls system to allow its household solar and battery power – as well as battery-powered electric vehicles of the future – to share loads with the grid at large, Kelley said.
The overall concept is similar to General Electric's "Net Zero Energy Home" concept, which envisions homes with solar panels and batteries to allow each home to use less electricity than they generate over the course of a year, along with a line of smart appliances controlled by a home energy management system (see GE Unveils Net Zero Energy Home Strategy).
GE does make some of the components of its proposed green home of the future, such as smart appliances and lighting systems, and plans to start marketing appliances along with a $200 to $250 home energy management device some time next year. Its first smart appliance, a water heater, went on sale last month (see Water Heaters for Wind Energy Storage?).
But it doesn't have Sanyo's strength in lithium-ion batteries and solar panels, Kelley noted. Sanyo is already integrating solar, HVAC and battery systems for commercial and industrial clients, and has said it will develop larger batteries for grid energy storage (see Japan, Land of the Rising Grid-Tied Battery).