A Residential Microgrid to Help Meet California’s Net Zero Initiative

Oct. 17, 2014
A residential microgrid can help meet California’s net zero home initiative, which calls for new construction to be net zero beginning in 2020.

With California aiming to ensure all new residential and commercial buildings are net zero by 2020, a new company thinks residential microgrids are the way to achieve the state’s goal.

The California initiative comes in the form of updated building codes. Under Title 24, all new residential construction is to be net zero energy by 2020, and new commercial buildings should achieve net zero energy by 2030.

Bill Southworth, CEO of Elecyr, says the company has created a residential microgrid system that keeps the power running when the grid is down and includes software that decides which form of power is most cost-effective at any given moment—renewable energy, storage, the grid, or a generator?mm

At the heart of the system is a 380-volt DC power system. Generally, when homeowners put panels on their buildings, they have to convert it from DC to AC, which results in a 10 percent loss, he says. In addition, the power is sent to the utility company, which generates another loss. What’s more, the power is thrown away altogether if the grid is down.

Elecyr’s system, on the other hand, allows solar-powered 380-volt DC electricity to run from the panels to the batteries for storage and also to inverters, which avoids conversion from DC to AC power. This can save 30 percent of the power generated by solar collectors, says Southworth.

The company’s residential microgrids are set up to be independent of the grid if the grid goes down. They’re made up of a number of modules.

“In a home, four battery banks act independently from each other. They all connect to the microgrid,” he explains. “If the grid goes down, the grid-tied portion goes down but the house operates off of energy storage.”

The company’s software system decides which form of energy is most cost-effective at any moment, and chooses to operate the system with that energy source.

With California’s net zero energy initiative in place, the company thinks it can offer homeowners an efficient option that’s capable of operating independently.

Does anyone have other ideas about how to meet California’s net zero initiative using microgrids?

About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

Twitter: @LisaECohn

Linkedin: LisaEllenCohn

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