I’m a member of Brixton Energy, a cooperative in South London that installs solar panels on social housing. The projects are crowd-funded by community members, with some of the profits used to support energy efficiency in the community. We are transparent about what we do and we want our investors to able to see the impact of their investments. One way we are doing this is by sharing how much electricity the panels are generating to anyone who is curious.
Opening up solar generation data
The solar generation data is logged to a website called solar log which came with the solar panel system. I wanted to integrate the data more closely with our website so I hacked together a really nasty script to scrape it from the solar log website and post the generation data to Cosm, the Internet of Things platform. In Cosm you can easily set up automated tweets based on changes to the data. I did just that and created a new twitter account @BES_Generation that tweets when electricity generation for the day exceeds 20, 50, 100, 150, 200 and 250kWh.
— BES Generation (@BES_Generation) March 14, 2013
An unexpectedly emotional response
I set up the auto tweeting for my own use. First, to make sure that the data was posting successfully to Cosm and second, to get push notifications of how the solar panels were doing without having to visit the solar log website.
I was surprised by how cheerful and happy the tweets made me feel.
It might have been because it was March and winter was finally ending but the combination of sunshine, being involved in a cool environmental project and knowing my investment was doing well was a real buzz!
But then I was even more surprised that other people liked it too:
I love that the solar panels on the housing estate at the end of my street tweet to tell us how much energy they have just generated.
— zenlan (@zenlan) March 17, 2013
The real world causes real emotions
Usually data and websites themselves don’t produce an emotional response.
The Internet of Things seems different. It connects us to the physical world which is full of emotions.
In this case each tweet connected me to a community project that I am really proud to be part of and to the instinctive cheerfulness caused by a sunny day.