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by Mike Zazaian October 14, 2006 - 4:15pm, 5 Comments

The software interface for Fat Spaniel's system

California start-up Fat Spaniel could make consumer solar panels much more practical with a new gauge that records not only how much energy is used, but also how much is stored over a given period of time.

The new device simply attaches to existing Solar Panel equipment, then begins to monitor all the activity within a system, both in and out. Information from the system is then sent via internet to in-house servers at Fat Spaniel, which then automatically relay the information to a cell phone, PC or any party who might be interested in the consumer’s solar energy usage. Said Chris Beekhuis, chief technology officer at Fat Spaniel:

Right now, you know how much you use, but not what percentage comes off the grid.

Current solar-panel users have no way of monitoring whether their equipment is efficient or not. Those who have installed such panels generally just compare their current energy bills against those prior to when the panels were installed. The result is a ballpark idea of how much energy is being used, but nothing that can really determine the precise usefulness or efficiency of a given system.

The new technology from Fat Spaniel would also allow for greater commercialization of solar energy. Consumers who aren’t willing to foot the up-front cost of solar panel installation could tap solar energy company to install the panels for them. Fat Spaniel’s system could then monitor the system, and the consumer would pay the solar energy company based on the amount of energy taken from that system.

Maryland-based SunEdison is already experimenting with such a system in two Staples retail stores. Staples won’t have to pay SunEdison for the installation, but instead will pay the company monthly for the energy consumed both from the solar panels. Added Beekhuis:

SunEdison can fully monetize the solar electrical system. The end user can just buy kilowatts. They know how to do that.

[via cnet]