Last night was the first time that I experienced being paid to use electricity since we finally changed to the smart tariff a week ago.
As a result of unusually high winds in some parts of the country there was an abnormal amount of electricity on the grid from wind turbines, causing the wholesale price to drop. Indeed the wholesale price dropped so low as to be negative.
My own electricity cost is linked to the wholesale cost, so my costs dropped very low and indeed negative at times. In those circumstances I remotely configured my car charging, battery storage and (for the first time) immersion heater to use the overnight power; and used the delay timers on the washing machine and dishwasher to start them during the negative cost period as their most intensive energy use is their initial water heating periods.
This snapshot shows the instantaneous consumption part way through that period with relatively high house loads and water heating.
My holiday project – building a Home Energy Management System (HEMS) – should automate the operation of the car charger and immersion heater around the periods where energy costs are lowest.
Today I’ve been thinking about configuring the Powevault storage system around my smart electricity tariff in which costs can vary every half hour.
My battery has an ability to be configured around a tariff called TIDE. I don’t have TIDE, but the ability to configure around TIDE can be reused for my tariff. The unit can be configured using a table or the clock as illustrated. There are several sections:
- Force charge – the battery storage charges at its maximum power (only 800 Watts) for 3.5 hours while electricity is cheapest.
- Charge only – a period while electricity is not quite so cheap when the battery will charge proportionally to any solar surplus, but will not discharge. It wouldn’t make sense to start discharging the battery when electricity is only marginally more expensive than when the battery was charged. This also prevents the battery discharging into my electric car if the car charges for a longer period than the battery.
- Normal – storage system will either charge proportionally to solar surplus, or discharge to minimise input.
- Force charge – as previously charges at maximum power in this case to ensure that some power is stored prior to the most expensive period.
- Normal – as previously but intended to cover the peak rate 4:00 to 7:00 PM period and beyond if there’s still stored energy.
Now that this pattern has been created, it can be adjusted by dragging the tabs around clock to adjust for when the cheapest power is at a different time day-to-day.
In the longer term I hope to automate such adjustment, although my priority is getting the car charger to automatically operate when power is cheapest.
My current energy management arrangements are designed to maximise use of the output of my solar panels for lowest energy cost by diverting any excess to PowerVault storage system, car charger or immersion heater. I can also manually configure the PowerVault and ImmerSUN to minimise costs of bought energy from the grid (I get 7 hours of cheaper night time electricity) by setting time periods for charging.
However as I move to a smart meter and smart tariff then I’m looking to start automating the selection of when to draw power from the grid based on costs that change half-hour-to-half-hour and day-to-day. The hardware to achieve this is illustrated here. To the right is a Raspberry Pi – a small computer with a wide range of connectivity – and to the left is a module that sets on top and has four relays able to switch mains loads, although at the moment I only anticipate needing 2 of them.
One of the relays will switch the boost input to the ImmerSUN to enable water heating, potentially when electricity is cheaper than gas, and a second relay will operate the transmitter that turns the car charger on alongside the ImmerSUN’s relay output during the cheapest available energy times.
The image to the right shows the timers that can be used to enable the ImmerSUN outputs to draw power from the grid. I never use this for water heating as currently gas is always cheaper than bought electricity, but do use it to more or less effect seasonally to charge the car from cheap night rate power when there isn’t enough daytime solar. For the new HEMS I plan a table of 7 days specifying the number of hours required for each output and let the HEMS find the cheapest half hours to deliver the total hours required and enable the charger or water heating as required.
Earlier in the week I received notification from my electricity and gas supplier that my 12 month contract was coming to an end. I did my usual search for the best value Economy 7 tariff but drew a blank – everything including renewal with my existing supplier was rather more expensive than I’m paying now – so I decided to be rather more adventurous.
My decision was a significant change – not just a move from Economy 7 to a smart meter, but also the addition of a smart tariff (one that changes rate multiple times per day), and indeed my chosen tariff is dynamic so it potentially changes every half hour and day-to-day. As I don’t yet have a smart meter then I’ll continue on Economy 7 until the meter is replaced, but then adopt the dynamic tariff. With flexible loads like electric car charging and my storage battery then I should be well equipped to make the most of such a tariff.
On the dynamic tariff rates are published each day at 4:00 PM for the next day. Some times (not very often!) prices even go negative so one is being paid to consume. At other times electricity is relatively expensive (early evening’s principally) but the battery should help me minimise purchases during such times.
I’ve already checked the battery storage and it has the ability to be programmed very flexibly around different electricity prices at different times of day so that it doesn’t just absorb surplus solar but charges at lower cost times to discharge at higher cost times.
I also want to explore opportunities to automate the response to tariff changes – potentially linking storage battery, car charging, and water heating to tariff as well as self-consumption.