As the owner of Hielscher Electrical, a solar retail business based in Cairns, Queensland, and a seasoned home improvement writer, I understand the ins and outs of solar storage batteries. Over the past decade, we have helped countless homeowners in Cairns and across Australia harness the power of the sun. In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through the essential information you need to know when considering purchasing solar storage batteries for your home.
Key Motivations for Installing Solar Storage Batteries
There are four main reasons people choose to install solar storage batteries:
- Using their solar energy
- Reducing their environmental impact
- Achieving grid independence
- Saving money
While cost savings alone may not justify the purchase of a battery, the other benefits may make it a worthwhile investment. Let’s dive into each motivation in more detail.
Using Your Own Solar Energy
With over 30% of Australian homes equipped with solar systems, harnessing solar power has become increasingly popular. Solar systems typically generate more energy than needed during midday, less during morning and evening demand peaks, and none at night.
Without a battery, when your solar system doesn’t produce enough power, you’ll import energy from the grid. You can also export surplus energy to the grid and receive payment for it. However, as solar capacity increases, many locations are limiting the maximum power new solar system owners can export. Moreover, if too many people in your area export energy, local voltage may rise, causing solar inverters to curtail generation.
To avoid curtailment, consider shifting some of your energy use to the middle of the day. Significant loads that can be shifted include:
- Water heating
- Pool pumps
- Air conditioning
- Appliances like dishwashers, clothes washers, and dryers
- Electric vehicle charging
If you still generate surplus energy, you can store it in a battery and use it later to reduce the energy you import from the grid for loads you can’t shift. The daily energy transferable via a battery will be the minimum of your excess generation and the amount you typically import. For instance, if you have 3kWh of excess generation in a day but import only 2kWh to meet your overnight loads, the maximum energy transferable via a battery is 2kWh.
Reducing Your Environmental Impact
Using solar energy is an excellent way to lower your carbon footprint, and adding a battery can further reduce your dependence on fossil-fuel-generated grid energy. Although lithium-ion batteries, the most common type of home battery, have some environmental concerns, efforts are being made to minimize these impacts.
Apart from investing in a battery, other ways to reduce your environmental impact include using energy-efficient appliances, and retrofitting energy saving solutions such as insulation.
Achieving Independence from the Grid
While nearly 70% of homeowners in a 2017 study expressed a desire to disconnect from the grid, it’s important to recognize the benefits of remaining connected. The grid provides a reliable source of energy when your solar system isn’t generating enough power and serves as an outlet for your excess energy. However, with a solar battery, you can maintain a level of independence while still enjoying the benefits of grid connection, especially during power outages.
Saving Money with Solar Batteries
Solar storage batteries can help you reduce your energy costs in two primary ways: storing surplus solar energy during low feed-in tariff periods and participating in a virtual power plant (VPP). Let’s explore these methods in more detail.
Storing Surplus Solar Energy
Electricity prices fluctuate throughout the day based on demand and available generation. If you have a meter that records energy usage, time-of-use and dynamic tariffs enable you to capitalize on these price fluctuations. By storing surplus solar energy during periods when the feed-in tariff (the money you receive for exporting energy to the grid) is low, you can use that energy later instead of importing from the grid when prices are high.
For example, if the difference between your feed-in tariff and peak import price is 44c/kWh, each kWh of solar energy stored and used during peak periods saves you 44c. On average, a daily transfer of 4kWh would save you $1.70 per day. However, an 8kWh battery, which costs around $9,500, would have a payback period exceeding 15 years – beyond the warrantied life of the battery.
In a 2017 study simulating battery use for 38 houses with solar, we found that payback periods are shorter for smaller batteries (which cost less) and for homes with larger annual energy exports. The graph below illustrates the payback period for various households based on their battery size and annual surplus energy generation.
These calculations assume a 40c/kWh price difference between import and feed-in tariffs and a future battery price of $600/kWh, which is not yet a reality (unless you can secure a generous subsidy).
Joining a Virtual Power Plant (VPP)
Another way to reduce the payback period and support the grid is by joining a VPP. A VPP is a network of home solar batteries that the electricity grid can tap into during times of need. VPP operators typically offer discounts on battery costs, battery management to take advantage of retail tariffs, and payments for allowing them to use your battery to trade energy on the electricity markets. Subsidies and payments vary across VPPs, but participation can help offset the cost of your solar storage battery.
By storing surplus solar energy during low feed-in tariff periods and participating in a VPP, you can maximize the cost-saving potential of your solar storage battery and reduce the payback period for your investment.
Alternative Solar Solutions
Before deciding on a solar storage battery, it’s essential to understand your motivations and consider other options for optimizing your solar energy use, reducing costs, and minimizing your environmental impact. For instance, if you don’t have a solar system yet, you might find that solar panels alone provide most of the cost savings you’re looking for.
In summary, solar storage batteries have a bright future in the world of renewable energy, but whether they’re right for your home depends on your unique situation and energy goals. While cost savings alone may not justify the purchase, using your own solar energy, reducing your environmental impact, achieving grid independence, and participating in a VPP are all compelling reasons to consider investing in a solar storage battery.
Evaluating Your Solar Battery Options
If you’ve determined that a solar storage battery aligns with your energy goals, the next step is to evaluate your options. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a solar battery:
1. Capacity and Power Rating: Solar batteries come in various capacities, typically measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Consider your daily energy usage and select a battery with a capacity that matches your needs. Additionally, pay attention to the battery’s power rating, which indicates how much power it can deliver at a given time. A higher power rating means the battery can power more appliances simultaneously.
2. Lifespan and Warranty: Solar batteries have limited lifespans, and their ability to hold a charge decreases over time. Look for a battery with a long lifespan and a warranty that covers at least ten years.
3. Battery Chemistry: Most solar batteries on the market are lithium-ion, but there are other options like lead-acid and flow batteries. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost, efficiency, and environmental impact. Research each option to determine the best fit for your needs.
4. Compatibility with Your Solar System: Not all batteries are compatible with every solar system. Make sure the battery you choose is compatible with your existing solar system or the one you plan to install.
5. Installation and Maintenance: Solar batteries require professional installation and may need occasional maintenance. Choose a reputable installer like Hielscher Electrical, and factor in any ongoing maintenance costs when calculating your return on investment.
6. Incentives and Subsidies: Check for any government incentives or subsidies available for solar battery installations in your area. These can significantly reduce the upfront cost of your battery system.
As a solar retail business owner and home improvement writer in Cairns, North Queensland, I understand the importance of making informed decisions when it comes to renewable energy solutions. Solar storage batteries can be a valuable addition to your home, providing numerous benefits such as using your own solar energy, reducing your environmental impact, achieving grid independence, and potentially saving money through VPP participation.
Carefully consider your motivations for investing in a solar battery, evaluate your options, and consult with a reputable solar retailer like Hielscher Electrical to ensure you make the right choice for your home. With the right solar storage battery system in place, you can enjoy the numerous advantages that come with harnessing the power of the sun.
Ready to take the next step towards a more sustainable future for your home or business? Don’t miss out on the numerous benefits solar storage batteries have to offer. Click here for more information and receive a personalized quote tailored to your unique energy needs. Join the growing community of Cairns homeowners and businesses embracing the power of the sun with Hielscher Electrical – your trusted solar experts. Let’s work together to build a brighter, greener tomorrow. Get started now!