Solar energy is a great alternative way to harness power from the sun and convert it into energy to supply your household’s needs. But what really takes the technology to the next level is battery storage, which allows users to rely on this energy during peak times, or at times when there’s less sunshine.
While the technology used to be prohibitively expensive not too long ago, recent advances and the growing number of players in the industry are helping push prices down and making it accessible to everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the main facts surrounding solar storage batteries. We’ll also give you a few pointers on how to buy the right one for your needs.
What is a Solar Battery Exactly?
A solar battery is a battery that was made specifically for the purpose of storing excess energy during production times. This energy can then be used at any time you wish, or redirected into the grid.
This greatly improves the autonomy of your solar setup. Without batteries, you’ll be losing a lot of potential energy that could be reused, and are relying more on your utility company, which kind of defeats the purpose of going solar.
Solar batteries are used in residential settings, and larger ones are routinely used by businesses. Solar energy plants also use large groups of batteries to store energy. Solar batteries are also used for many other applications, such as powering standalone charger units we see popping up all over major cities.
How do Solar Batteries Work?
The solar battery will collect energy from the solar panels. Any energy that won’t be used at the moment will be automatically stored for later use. A solar battery is typically composed of a group of smaller batteries working together. They will usually consist of a storage unit, as well as a controller to keep tabs on inputs and outputs as well as other critical data.
What’s the Point of Having Batteries in the First Place?
Solar power, as it is, can be a great way to access renewable and clean energy from a free source. However, without adequate storage, it can have its limitations.
For one, there’s the issue of low sun exposure. If there’s no sun, then there’s no power being generated. Storage not only makes solar energy more autonomous, but makes it a more viable solution for people who live further from the equator. Not to mention that even during sunlight hours, the amount of energy produced can be inconsistent, and battery storage could be used during those times to supplement panel production. Solar panels all have their limits, and if your immediate energy needs surpass this, you’ll have no choice but to draw from your battery or from your utility service.
Having a solar system installed without proper storage solutions to go with it would just be a waste, and make them a less than great investment with lower returns. This is why you should consider picking an installer that offers extensive battery storage solutions and after care service. One example of a great battery storage company is Semper Solaris, located in southern California. They’ve been in the business for decades, and are known for their great selection of products and battery storage installation service. They’ll be able to build the system and battery storage solution that you need to take full advantage of your solar panel production.
Another factor that needs to be considered is that you can’t always be relying on your utility service for backup energy. A battery would provide you with a defacto generator during blackouts for instance. This could be especially useful in areas like California where blackouts are routinely enacted to counter wildfires. Not to mention cases like Alyson Canyon crisis where huge natural gas spills ended up jeopardizing energy production. Utility companies can be unreliable in some cases, and downright predatory in others, and knowing that you always have an alternative makes battery storage an even better investment.
How to Pick the Best Battery for You
Before you start shopping for batteries, you have to understand a few technical facts about them. First of all, most batteries on the market will either be NiCad batteries, which stands for Nickel Cadmium, and Lead Acid. Lithium Ion batteries are also becoming more common as the prices have decreased a lot over the past few years, and are the same type of batteries found in most electronics today.
Lead Acid batteries are usually the cheapest. However, they offer the poorest performance and don’t last as long. NiCad are second best, and will give you better performance and longevity. But Li-ion are by far the best in both categories.
The longevity of a battery is counted by what is referred to as “cycles”. A cycle is simply a complete discharge and recharge of a battery. Batteries lose capacity as they are recharged, and this process is what puts the most stress on the battery. Other factors such as battery temperature can also affect how much stress the battery has to suffer, and its longevity.
The number of cycles a battery can withstand will vary greatly depending on the battery, but the average battery on the market will be able to last for thousands of cycles. This can go from a few thousand to 10,000+, and this is only increasing as new technology is being introduced.
Another thing you have to look for is capacity rating. The higher the rating, the more energy the battery will be able to hold on one charge. You have batteries that can store from anywhere to 1Kw to 10Kw+. Calculating your hourly energy consumption during sundown hours will give you an idea of how much time you could last on battery energy alone.
Also know that most residential units are “stackable”. Meaning that you can connect them to smaller batteries and increase their capacity that way. Another thing you should know is that a battery’s capacity doesn’t say anything about its output. So, you also have to look at the battery’s power rating to know how much energy you’ll be able to draw from it at any given time.
A battery that would have a high capacity, but a low power rating, will be able to sustain a few appliances, but for a long period. But a battery with lower capacity and a high output would be able to handle bigger demands, just for a shorter time.
This is very important as some people might prefer scenario A, like off gridders for instance. If what you really want is autonomy, and don’t have a lot of stuff to power, then these could be a perfect solution. On the other hand, if you have a large household with extensive energy needs, then the second option would be a better choice.
Other things you’ll have to consider are the depth of discharge, which is the optimal charge by percentage for better longevity, manufacturer, and the warranty.
Battery storage technology is key to any solar panel system, and really allows people to get the full energy saving potential of solar. More importantly, it will reduce your reliance on utility companies, or even allow you to fully live off the grid if you want to.