Contributed by Emily Butterfield and Ryan Nieto
For blackberry lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and baseball fans, summer is a cherished time in the Pacific Northwest. It is also a time cherished by Green Canopy Net Zero Energy homeowners whose solar panels are performing at their highest potential. As the sunnier months are rolling through, some exciting trends are emerging regarding the energy that our homes consume and produce.
We are currently tracking the energy data from 15 of our homes in Seattle and Portland, thanks to homeowners who have generously opted into sharing this information directly from their Sense home energy monitoring systems with us. Of these homes, 3 of them are currently producing solar power, and in June we found that the energy produced from their solar panels was almost enough to offset the total consumption of all 15 homes combined!
This is the idea of Net Zero Energy; some months will allow solar panels produce more energy than is consumed, like in the spring and summer, and some months energy consumption will surpass production. Over the course of the calendar year, it will balance out to be zero energy since the extra energy produced can be banked with the local utility as credit to offset the winter months when the sun is lower on the horizon and shining less.
The potential for net zero solar energy in the Pacific Northwest may seem far-fetched considering its reputation as a haven for clouds and rain. However, Western Washington and Oregon actually receive more solar energy than Germany – currently one of the leading producers of solar power despite their annual solar resources being comparable to that of Alaska. Our long summer days and mild climate allows solar panels to function at a higher level of efficiency than many regions. Plus, rain and clouds aren’t even all bad – energy is still produced on overcast days, and a regular shower cleans the panels.
As our tracking continues, we anticipate learning more from emerging trends, which will help us refine our processes in building highly energy efficient homes. Even though not all our homes produce solar energy, the tools and systems in place in every Green Canopy home allow them to consume significantly less than the average home, continuing the shift towards a carbon-free lifestyle and energy market. We hope to not only improve our systems, but with Sense, we seek to also empower homeowners with a better understanding of how their day-to-day habits connect to their energy usage, in turn helping them make informed decisions on the ways they live within their home.