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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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The Aftershocks of the EV Transition Could Be Ugly

To avoid unintended consequences, bring realism to the table

10 min read
CEO of Dodge Brand standing on a podium next to a Dodge Charger Daytone SRT concept all-electric muscle car. Behind him a giant screen displaying the sentence: The Rules Have Changed.

Tim Kuniskis, CEO of Dodge Brand, Stellantis, introduces the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept all-electric muscle car on August 17, 2022 in Pontiac, Michigan.

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The introduction of any new system causes perturbations within the current operating environment, which in turn, create behavioral responses, some predictable, many not. As University of Michigan professor emeritus and student of system-human interactions John Leslie King observes “People find ways to use systems for their own benefit not anticipated by designers and developers. Their behavior might even be contradictory to hoped-for outcomes.”

“Change rides on the rails of what doesn’t change,” King notes, “including people being self-serving.”

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Forecasting the Ice Loss of Greenland’s Glaciers With Viscoelastic Modeling

Researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany are developing new models to simulate how glaciers behave

8 min read
Aerial view of Nioghalvfjerdsbræ showing the extensive patterns of the crevasses

This sponsored article is brought to you by COMSOL.

To someone standing near a glacier, it may seem as stable and permanent as anything on Earth can be. However, Earth’s great ice sheets are always moving and evolving. In recent decades, this ceaseless motion has accelerated. In fact, ice in polar regions is proving to be not just mobile, but alarmingly mortal.

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