A community solar app.
Visual Designer, Wireframing, User Interface Design
Tools Used: Figma, Miro, Adobe Illustrator Photoshop
To create a means of transition for citizens of India to move from fossil fuel energy to renewable solar energy.
My role during this project was as a UX Designer and UX Researcher on a team of 3.
I was involved with each stage of the process, which included:
Initial user research
Sketching and wireframing
Presenting final designs
Our reliance on fossil fuels, has put us in a very compromising position. We need to act now.
Solar Power is a viable replacement. The stopgap, however, is in the storage. There just isn't enough.
But what if we could share? What if Solar Energy could be like sugar your borrow from your neighbor?
Introducing Wafer, a platform for neighborhoods to pool and share solar energy.
How it works
Enter their details in order to find their recently set up panel and community so that they can join them.
The screen design here is modeled along the design of tiled sections. Users can navigate the app better as it reveals core information at a glance.
User can take actions when it comes to their own panel. Look for blockages, debris, breaks and other damages.
Pay your electric bills on time with the help of reminders. Add your card and pay less if you send energy to the main grid, lowering your electrical bill considerably every month.
From a manufacturing perspective, we found it ends with the user. Our research showed that there isn't much to do with regards to the post use cycle of a solar panel.
So, we dialed back and looked more into the usage patterns.
Centralized VS Decentralized
Most people who take solar panels for their homes fall into these categories.
Hook up to the grid and feed it power and get credits for it. They enable a cleaner source for everyone
Have a storage option and go as off-grid as possible
They are unaffected by faults.
The weak link of solar being adopted is storage
One of the biggest issues with solar energy is that it is only active at daytime, whereas peak usage is more towards the night-time. This requires adequate storage methods to collect enough energy for nigh time usage.
Batteries and other types of technologies, exist, however, they either use expensive technology, meaning the average consumer cannot afford it or the cheaper versions cannot hold enough charge.
There is also the issue of sizes. Large storage capacities require larger batteries. Which leads to a space problem.
Majority of the consumers aren’t looking for planet saving solutions, but profit making solutions as Battery solution is going to be the key price component. And price defines the transition rates.
So this is when we took a step back and looked at all our research. We started postulating ideal situations and interventions for a system based solution.
And these are the three alternative solutions that we came up with.
REDESIGN OF THE PANEL
India has more solar module assemblers and suppliers, than manufacturers, it makes sense to define a new pipeline of companies who work only on disassembling.
Introduce value of solar to the pricing of the credits. With increase of solar generation, the difference in tariff is actually paid off by normal rate payers through their electricity bill.
Flow batteries are clean,
scalable and with high depth of discharge. But these become feasible and cheap only on scale of grids. Hence the need for community solar projects.
Looking at user behaviors and transition trends, it's clear that reliability and affordability are major factors to accelerate transition. Hence we decided to explore micro grid solutions and devised a mobile app for a neighborhood solar project.
Our Guiding Principles
1) Solar is a surface phenomenon. Hence, more surface area equals more power output.
2) Cities consume the most power but has less non-fragmented area to produce power.
3) Production is dependently cyclic, with power peaking mid-day when sun is direct overhead and depended on clear skies.
Limitations and Challenges
Throughout the project, limitations and challenges arose, such as:
Having lack of a physical solar panel to check the internals of the design.
Time constraints which limited the ability to conduct additional design iterations, field interviews and usability testing
Results and Reflection
Through the final design of the mobile app, I was able to visualize a clear solution to help users transition towards solar energy. A simple on-boarding and informative application, with access to tap to pay and monitoring systems for ease of understanding, users can now have an experience that allows them to feel easier to transition to solar.
To continue this project, some next steps would include:
Continuing to evolve the design of the prototype based on additional user feedback through usability testing.
Develop a mobile specific application with partnerships with solar power companies.