SunSpec Alliance setting standards for the solar industry

BP Oil Spill

Photo credit Tom Raftery (Me!) is an alliance of renewable industry companies whose aim is to define communication standards data monitoring for the solar power industry.

Up until now there haven’t been any standards agreed around data communication in the solar power industry which added huge cost and complexity to the monitoring and management of solar farms – especially when there were multiple vendors involved. These lack of interoperability and increased cost issues have greatly hobbled solar power’s growth.

To address this the SunSpec Alliance was formed last year with the express purpose of defining standards which, if widely adopted, should significantly speed up the deployment of solar energy systems and be a big help in their management, reporting and maintenance.

On this coming May 11th, the Alliance will publish their initial set of proposed communication standards for the industry and open them up for public review and comment. The first specifications cover the inverter, the meter and the environmental sensors.

The release of these documents will be followed up by implementations of the specifications by Alliance member companies, testing, certification and a branding project to bring those products to market. Once these standards start to become widely adopted, they can be proposed to the IEC or the IEEE to become official international standards.

Standards are hugely important for the growth of any emerging industry. In the case of solar power, the standards will be all the more important, coinciding as they are with the with the arrival of smart grids and the development of smart grid interoperability standards.

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Why can’t we have energy labels for all electronic devices?

Energy rating

I moved to Spain recently. Setting up a new home in a new country meant a lot of new purchases. I bought CFL (and some LCD) bulbs for lighting. That was easy.

However, when it came to other purchases, things were far from clear.

I wanted a Blu-Ray DVD player and a decent TV but how do I get information on the energy efficiency of these devices to compare them?

The Sony BDP-S300 Blu-Ray DVD player product page has no information whatsoever on the power requirements of the device (and that is one of the only reasonably good Blu-Ray players easily available here, for now).

Similarly with the TV. I know plasma screens use far more energy than LCD so I wanted an LCD but there is no site which allows you to compare the energy usage of different TVs (or DVD players, or computers, or printers or…) in the same way that the ActOnCO2 site does for cars, for instance.

What I really want though, and I suspect I am not alone in this, is clear certified energy labels on all electrical items, similar to the ones on the light bulb packaging above.

We already have energy labels for most white goods, light bulb packaging and cars in the EU, it should be possible to extend this to cover all electrical products. I understand that it is not straightforward but it would be incredibly useful for consumers and would reward responsible manufacturers.

So, why can’t we have standardised, energy labels for all electronic devices?