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Big Data and Solar Energy


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With a national focus on power prices and the memory of the South Australia blackouts still fresh in the minds of consumers, it is unsurprising that Australians are flocking to install solar panels on their homes. 

Installing solar panels is not without its issues: Storage batteries cost around $10,000 and last only an average of 5.4 years. What is more, feed-in tariffs have fallen to as low as 5.5 cents in some states, with consumer buy-back rates at around 28 cents. Nevertheless, the Clean Energy Council estimates more than 1.64 million small-scale solar power systems were installed across the country by the end of 2016. Energy Consultancy firm Sunwiz calculates that around 15,000 homes per month are installing solar.

It is the disconnect between the feed-in and buy-back rates that is of particular annoyance to consumers. Many are complaining the power is fed back into the grid before they have utilised it at the end of the day — when they are home and actually need it. The cost to buy the power back at that time is up to four times the rate they were paid to feed it in.

With the rise of big data and the ability to analyse vast tracts of information from multiple sources in a fraction of the time a human can do it, one company, Paladin, has put the technology to good use. The technology, together with a device that enables consumers to use every available kilowatt for their own needs before the energy is fed back into the grid, resulting in 30-35 per cent reductions in household energy bills. 

The cost to buy the power back at that time is up to four times the rate they were paid to feed it in. 

The device is completely agnostic so it can be retro-fitted to an existing solar system, regardless of brand, and can handle single and three-phase solar. 

It aggregates data at a rate of 3,600 times per second, taking information from the state of the electricity network, solar panels, hot water temperature, and household electricity consumption. It is able to divert electricity to any appliance that is on resistor power, such as water heating, under-floor heating, pool or electric car charging, ensuring that a household’s needs are met before power is fed back to the grid for a low tariff.

Paladin Solar Director Mark Robinson explains: “A regular hot water cylinder with an element chews up to 35 per cent of a household’s power. With our device, any spare power is diverted to ensure constant hot water supply, without the need for batteries.

“While there are several diverters on the market, Paladin is only one that is connected to the grid. As it is also the only one to utilise big data to monitor everything so frequently, it excels on marginal days of sunlight, grabbing every available watt." 

The word paladin means a type of warrior, devoted to kindness with a strict code of honour. the company was named so for its goal to help consumers take back control of their electricity costs. However, it is also proving popular with electricity suppliers, who have realised that Paladin’s big data solution can also prove invaluable for them during period of peak demand. 

The company has just completed a comprehensive trial with a New Zealand power supplier as Mark Robinson explains: “In periods of peak demand, it can take power suppliers up to twenty minutes to take control of the grid, and they often have to switch off hot water heaters or air conditioners. The results when power is restored is a resumption in the peak demand. Paladin can identify what is happening and take appropriate action before the power companies have even recognised the problem.

“Paladin has just been trialled in a hundred homes. It has been proven to identify issues well before the power companies, enabling the system to slowly wind down hot water temperatures in peak periods, and slowly bring them up, eliminating huge demand issues completely.”    

It is, after all, a cost-effective yet energy-efficient solution for the areas built with solar power. 

While a single home on Paladin will reap benefits, it won’t have that impact on the grid as a whole.  Nevertheless, the system could have whole-grid applications and benefits in new build housing estates and entire suburbs. It is, after all, a cost-effective yet energy-efficient solution for the areas built with solar power. Installation can be completed by electricians qualified to work on meter boards and no solar accreditation is required.  

Currently, Paladin devices are not compatible with solar storage batteries due to a conflict with the software, but developers and electrical engineers are working on a solution for the Paladin V6. The solution will divert power to the battery as well as the hot water system, and give consumers even greater control over their power usage and rising energy costs.  

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