The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

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.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

The EV Transition Explained: Charger Infrastructure

How many, where, and who pays?

7 min read
Illuminated electric vehicle charging stations at night in Monterey Park, California.

Electric vehicle charging stations in Monterey Park, California.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

The ability to conveniently charge an EV away from home is a top concern for many EV owners. A 2022 survey of EV owners by Forbes indicates that 62 percent of respondents are so anxious about their EV range that travel plans have been affected. While “range anxiety” may be overblown, the need for an extensive and reliable external charging infrastructure is not.

Infrastructure terminology can itself be confusing. For clarity, bear in mind that a charging station is a specific physical location which has one or more charging posts. A charging post itself may have one or more ports, where each port can charge a single EV. Each post may have multiple types of service connectors to support different EV charging connector standards. And a port may supply varying power levels.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}

Video Friday: Humanoid Soccer

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
Humans and human-size humanoid robots stand together on an indoor soccer field at the beginning of a game

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
ICRA 2023: 29 May–2 June 2023, LONDON

Enjoy today’s videos!

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Modeling and simulation in Simulink and Simscape

1 min read
Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Design and simulate a fuel cell system for electric mobility. See by example how Simulink® and Simscape™ support multidomain physical modeling and simulation of fuel cell systems including thermal, gas, and liquid systems. Learn how to select levels of modeling fidelities to meet your needs at different development stages.