A Plug-and-Play Microgrid for Rooftop Solar

The future of solar energy depends on making residential power good enough for the grid

12 min read
Photo-illustration of a hand holding the sun with neighborhood homes and engineers in background.
Photo-illustration: Lincoln Agnew
Yellow

A few years ago, I found myself in the laundry room of a house in Austin, Texas, looking at some disturbing electrical signals on an oscilloscope. In my capacity as chief technology officer for the nonprofit clean-energy-research firm Pecan Street, examining the effect on the grid of homes with rooftop photovoltaics is my job. But what I was seeing that day in the house's connection to the grid sparked an idea. “If I added energy storage to this house, I could fix this," I remember saying.

If only it were that simple. Rooftop solar seems like it should be straightforward. When the sun shines, you should be able to reduce or eliminate your home's input from the grid and maybe even sell some of your power back to your utility company. With a home battery-storage unit, you should be able to do that even after dark.

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Can the Artemis Moon Mission Revive the Glamour of Big Tech?

It’s no wonder the tech centibillionaires are building rockets

3 min read
An image of an astronaut having moon soil fall from his hand.

NASA's planned Artemis lunar exploration mission could help burnish the image of big tech.

NASA

Today, the phrase “big tech” typically resonates negatively. It conjures up disturbing aspects of social media and the rise of megacorporations that seem beyond the reach of the law. And yet decades ago, big tech was typically associated with the glamor of motion: of speed, of power, and the thrill of exploring new frontiers.

Two leaders, Wernher von Braun and Juan Trippe, became household names as they made bold bets that paid off and enabled people to go where few thought it possible not long before. Von Braun had a troubling history: As a 30-year-old, he had convinced Adolf Hitler to fund his V-2 missiles, of which thousands were built, with slave labor. They rained down on Paris, London, and other cities, killing 9,000 people, mostly civilians.

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Before Ships Used GPS, There was the Fresnel Lens

This bright idea revolutionized lighthouses and saved lives

3 min read
 A Fresnel lens at the Seguin Island Light Station in Maine.

The Fresnel lens used in the Seguin Island Light Station in Georgetown, Maine.

Edwin Remsberg/AP

Ships today use satellite-based radio navigation, GPS, and other tools to prevent accidents. But back at the beginning of the 19th century, lighthouses guided ships away from rocky shores using an oil lamp placed between a concave mirror and a glass lens to produce a beam of light.

The mirrors were not very effective, though, and the lenses were murky. The light was difficult to see from a distance on a clear night, let alone in heavy fog or a storm.

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Why Battery Energy Storage Is Moving to Higher DC Voltages

Download this free whitepaper to learn how battery energy storage up to 1500 VDC can deliver power efficiencies and cost reductions

1 min read

The explosive growth of the battery energy storage industry has created a need for higher DC voltages in utility-scale applications.

Download this free whitepaper and learn how you can achieve a smooth transfer of power, efficiencies and cost reductions with battery energy storage system components up to1500 VDC.