Tendril Networks is in the business of networking home devices to save energy – and solar panels are a home device, aren't they?
The Boulder, Colo.-based startup is now working on integrating data from rooftop solar panels into its platform for measuring and managing energy use, CEO Adrian Tuck said Thursday. He was in San Francisco to demonstrate Tendril's technology at the California Academy of Sciences museum.
The plan is to gather the data from the inverters that convert the direct current generated by photovoltaic solar panels to alternating current, he said. But he declined to go into more detail as to how far along Tendril was in the process or what inverter makers it might be working with.
Measuring solar panel output makes sense for Tendril, given that it is seeking to provide homeowners with an overall view of their energy consumption. So far it's raised $50 million for its line of ZigBee-enabled hardware and its TREE (Tendril Residential Energy Ecosystem) software (see Tendril Lands $30M as Growth, Consolidation Loom in Smart Grid).
Providing a view of home energy usage is a rapidly expanding field, with startups like Energate, Control4, Greenbox Technology and Onzo now facing competition from projects under development at Google, Microsoft and Cisco (see stories here, here and here).
The move to integrate solar panel inverter data is one of many integration challenges Tendril is hashing out with its new partner, General Electric, Tuck added (see GE, Tendril Team Up on Smart Home Technology).
GE plans to integrate Tendril's TREE platform, now being piloted by about 30 utilities, with its upcoming line of home energy management devices and its proposed line of "smart" appliances (see GE's Smart Appliances: Smarter With GE Home Energy Manager).
GE wants to offer homebuilders the hardware and systems to make "net zero energy" homes, or houses that make more energy than they use, through a combination of renewable power sources like solar panels or wind turbines and a host of energy efficiency and smart home systems that can turn down power use (see GE Unveils Net Zero Energy Home Strategy).
In announcing the plan on Tuesday, Steve Fludder, vice president of GE's Ecomagination division, gave the example of a home outfitted with a 3-kilowatt solar panel array on its roof that, combined with GE's smart appliances and home energy management system, could make more energy than it uses over the course of an average year.
It would make sense to have data from that solar panel integrated into an overall home energy management system, of course. That opens up the possibility of such things as having appliances turn on when the sun is shining and solar panels are producing power - or, perhaps, turning off appliances at those times to sell power back to the utility at a tidy profit.
Of course, the latter will depend on smart meters or other systems that allow two-way communication of energy use information, pricing signals and other such data between the utility and its customers.