NEWS: ‘Alexa, Turn Up the Heat,’ and other AEE Member News

Posted by Lexie Briggs on Mar 4, 2016 12:15:09 PM


Here at AEE, we are riding high following Energy Forward, our annual meeting of corporate members and state and regional partners. We had the advanced energy business braintrust in the room, but advanced energy never stops – not even for our conference! Here’s a selection of recent news from our ever-active member companies.

This week, MIT Technology Review published a long write-up of SolarCity’s new Gigafactory, slated to open next year in Buffalo, NY. When it’s running at full capacity, the factory will produce 1 GW of high-efficiency solar panels every year (that’s 10,000 solar panels a day). Peter Rive, the company’s chief technology officer, says the new factory could “transform” the economics of residential solar power, lowering the cost of residential solar to “well below” $2.50 per watt by the end of 2017. 

“Right now we can sell you energy in 14 states at a rate lower than what you’re currently paying the utility,” Rive told Tech Review. The new gigafactory, he said, “sets us up for a future where solar plus batteries is cheaper than fossil fuels.” (SolarCity is not the only company to expect solar-plus-storage to be a game changer. Check out our story on some cool new solar-plus-storage technology from last week.)

Solar plus storage is one piece of the puzzle to make homes more interconnected and responsive, but what about thermostats? Pretty soon you will be able to control your thermostat with a simple instruction: “Alexa, turn up the heat.” Amazon is partnering with AEE member Nest, as well as Honeywell, to allow users of Alexa, the e-commerce giant’s voice assistant, to control their home’s smart thermostats with a vocal command. Basically, anyone with a connected thermostat can now have the convenience my mom and dad enjoyed 20 years ago, when they could tell another smart music player with a name derived from Alexandra to turn up the heat. (That’s right – I was my parents’ Alexa-bot.)

SunEdison just finished a major project in western Australia, as a 312 kW rooftop array went online in a Perth shopping mall. SunEdison supplied 948 panels to cover the roof of the Broadway Fair Shopping Centre almost entirely. The system is expected to generate 500,000 kWh a year, more than 30% of the shopping center’s electricity needs.

“We were looking for solution to grow income as well as provide a buffer against escalating costs,” Broadway Fair general manager Paul Avon-Smith said in an interview. “SunEdison and Infinite Energy [the system installer] presented us with a solar solution that made strong economic sense with the environmental benefits of reduced carbon emission being a nice bonus.”

Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, First Solar has been selected by a Swiss solar developer, HopSol AG, to power Namibia’s Otjozondijupa Solar Park. The facility will be Namibia’s largest grid-connected solar PV power plant, and is capable of producing 5MW of power, or roughly 1 percent of the country’s total generation capacity. The solar park will have more than 52,000 First Solar modules.

“Our decision to select First Solar’s thin film modules was primarily driven by the operating conditions in the area. We needed a reliable module technology that would thrive in the hot temperatures that are common in the summer months and also deliver energy in cloudy, low-light conditions,” said Dr. Robert Hopperdietzel, Chairman, HopSol AG. “First Solar has a proven track record in delivering an energy yield advantage in challenging environmental conditions and there is no doubt that its thin film modules are the right choice for southern Africa.”

Solar PV and connected homes are just two components of the $1.4 trillion global advanced energy market. Download our annual Advanced Energy Now 2016 Market Report for the full size and scope of the growing advanced energy economy.

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Topics: News Update