New free software helps Albertans dive into renewable energy
There’s no escaping the topic. You read about it in the news, experts are talking about how it will change the way we power our lives, and now, there are even rebates from the government available.
You guessed it, we are talking about renewable energy.
Whether its by sunlight, wind, or geothermal heat, renewable energy has the ability to reduce a consumer’s carbon footprint as well as their utility bill.
With installation costs continuing to fall for certain renewable technologies, and electricity prices on the rise in Alberta, more and more consumers are starting to consider some type of renewable energy system for their home or business.
Even with these incentives, some barriers still exist. Most notably, its understanding how to get started.
A new software start-up is looking to make renewable energy more approachable for Albertans.
Created and maintained by a group of skilled Alberta professionals, Ripple Design Studio is a platform which both the general public and professional engineers can use to determine which alternative energy sources are right for their home or development project.
“Our goal is to create a new standard for energy modeling software which is free and easy to use, in order to support the growth of the alternative energy sector,” said Evan Smith, Solutions Architect at Ripple Design Studio. “Our software can quickly model anything from a few solar panels to offset a home’s electrical bill, to a fully functional independent microgrid capable of sustaining a community while generating usable energy surplus.”
In the past, existing energy modeling solutions were hard to use and even straightforward assessments could take days or weeks depending on what information was readily available. As a work around, many industry professionals had developed their own complicated spreadsheets to manage their projects.
The Ripple Design Studio team believed that an application that could provide basic feasibility studies with minimal data entry and no training required would save countless work hours on every project.
“We wanted Ripple Design Studio to be accessible to everyone and support multiple energy options right from the get go,” said Smith. “We’re also hoping it will be used as an educational tool, making alternative energy accessible to anyone who wants to know more about the various technologies currently available.”
How it works
It’s not just understanding what type of a building you have, or what you are currently paying for electricity, consumers considering an alternative energy installation need data on weather, the energy profile of their building, and more. Finding accurate information for a particular region can be an ordeal and often prevents people from pursuing alternative energy options and connecting with the resources they need.
Ripple Design Studio makes it significantly easier to get started. With just a location and a project in mind you can quickly determine what the equipment sizing and energy requirements are from its simple and easy to read reports.
“As we see it, one of the main hurdles surrounding the wide-scale implementation of alternative energy is that consumers typically need to take on researching their options and locating the right suppliers all by themselves,” said Smith. “Ripple Design Studio lets you create a project with as few details as possible, and once you generate results you can connect directly with vendors who specialize in exactly the type of equipment and services you need to complete your project.”
In just five easy steps, Ripple Design Studio can help any homeowner with their alternative energy project.
Step 1: Set Location
Your project’s location determines the environmental data used for feasibility estimates of your chosen alternative energy sources. Ripple Design Studio uses climate data from all over the world to project the lifetime performance of the energy system.
Step 2: Choose Building(s)
Ripple Design Studio has a library of Building Models and specifications derived from detailed ASHRAE standards. Choosing building type and area automatically calculates annual energy demand.
These heating, cooling, and electrical energy estimates are then used to determine your system requirements when switching to alternative energy.
Step 3: Add Rates
Financial analysis is as easy as knowing what you currently pay for electricity and natural gas. Simply input your rates and fees for a selected period and Ripple Design Studio will project annual and lifetime savings when switching to alternative energy.
Step 4: Select Components
Select alternative energy sources like solar panels, geothermal, and more then watch Ripple Design Studio simulate an efficient micro-grid system.
Electrical and thermal storage components utilize surplus energy generated throughout the year for even more benefit.
Ripple Design Studio gives you options to allocate energy, select equipment size, and determine if your project is on or off-grid to create a truly integrated or independent alternative energy system.
Step 5: Review your Report
A Report detailing your project is automatically generated as you create an alternative energy system, including expected performance and specifications for the equipment required.
You can review any of the Project pages and make further changes to fully customize your ideal micro-grid System.
Options for alternative energy are more than just solar
There is no doubt that when most people think about renewable energy for their homes, the first thing that comes to mind is solar power.
Although solar can be a great way to reduce your electricity costs and your carbon footprint, it might not work for everyone, and there are many other options available, explains Smith.
Most Albertans probably don’t realize that geothermal heating is an option in our climate. In fact, the average underground temperature in Alberta stays around 6-7⁰C all year.
Heat pumps and exchangers can extract this ambient energy and modern thermal storage technology allows your heating system to store any extra thermal energy you produce under the ground for later use.
Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generators are also an appealing option. These are power generators which use a low emission fuel like natural gas or diesel to generate electricity and utilizes the thermal energy created from generation as the primary source of heat for the system.
“A well-maintained CHP can generate 1.5 times as much heat energy as electrical energy and can be scaled for use in home, community, or industrial projects,” said Smith.
The future of alternative energy modeling software
The general public can sign up now. It’s fee and easy to use.
As the platform continues to evolve, Smith says new features and functions will be rolled out. Electrical storage (batteries) and wind power are next on the agenda to be added to the basic version. Additionally, new charts and infographics are being added based on user feedback to streamline the interface for first time users while packing as much added functionality to the application as possible.
By the end of 2019 he says they hope to have an early release of the Engineering Edition ready for testing. This edition will allow for more in-depth simulation and modelling, allowing a user full control over their system design and preferences.
“Overall our focus is on user experience as we don’t want users getting lost in a complex interface or being overwhelmed with pages and pages of data input and obscure results,” said Smith. “We want our users to come away from Ripple feeling energized and ready to break ground on their project.”