As we progress away from fossil fuels and dirty coal fired power plants, the need for renewable energy technologies like solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass, wave and tidal energy are being leveraged all over the planet to combat climate chanbge. Impacts of climate change are being experienced all over the globe and countries are signing agreements to counter this problem with immediate effect.
Solar energy has been the major technology driving the move to sustainability and arguably has the largest potential if this technology can be installed on domestic homes in volume. This supports the decentralisation of the power grid which is the direction we all know, the UK in particular, need to move toward. Though a clear issue is the intermittency – solar panels only generate during the day – this is where batteries can complement Solar. Solar panels, when connected to battery, can directly charge them via a charge controller as battery inputs and outputs DC power.
Let’s look into the benefits of batteries for a domestic system:
Storing solar energy: Batteries can store, hold and power home appliances with solar energy produced on site of consumption. Solar panels generate electricity during day and mostly energy is consumed at home during night. Using batteries can store solar energy produced during day and can be used at night.
Energy independence: Storing energy produced from solar systems at home can reduce dependency on national grid. Also grid electricity prices are always increasing and using home generated solar energy is a much better option. Also if solar system generates more energy than required, it can be stored in battery and can be used later.
Backup power: In case of power outage in the power grid, electricity stored in batteries can be used as power source. It is a much cleaner and greener option than a backup generator which uses other fossil derived fuels.
Reduce household carbon footprint: Using battery with solar system is one of the greenest and most sustainable ways to power households. Not relying on national grid means not relying on fossil fuels and hence reducing carbon footprint.
Businesses can also benefit from a battery and solar combination:
Cheaper than grid electricity: Onsite electricity production from solar panels is cheaper than the grid electricity rates for commercial entities. Also demand side response can be another factor to save money where revenue can be generated when electricity demand is high. Battery and solar system duo can generate revenue and early return on investment can be expected from such a system.
Reliable energy supply: Solar energy is intermittent and is beneficial for day time use if not connected with battery system. Battery system connected to solar energy system makes the energy supply reliable, mostly when the demand is high.
Resilient energy supply: Commercial battery backup can make the whole energy system more resilient to any unwanted disruption. Solar systems with battery backup systems are intelligent way to make full proof energy supply infrastructure for a business.
Backup power: If power outage happens in a commercial establishment, fast and quick backup is required for such a facility. Solar powered battery backup is the most convenient system in such situation.
Going totally off-grid: There is a possibility for an organisation or commercial establishment to go totally off-grid and only rely on solar power and battery power. Depending on the size of organisation this is possible but rarely implemented. Grid power is kept connected for more reliability disruption proof operation.
Public image: Corporate social responsibility has been at the forefront of most organisations as masses judge them by their social initiatives. Using solar energy with battery backup gives a clear message to the public about the responsibilities company is taking for the masses and creates better image, hence promoting it indirectly.
Saving costs: Using solar energy from the sun and storing that energy in batteries can provide electricity at peak demands, reducing costs to substantial levels.
There are various types of batteries available in the market, Lead-acid being the oldest and the cheapest technology but has short life span and low depth of discharge, requiring number of batteries to power connected electrical load. Another common technology in batteries is the Lithium-ion battery which is being used in mobile phones, laptops, electric vehicles and home storage systems. Lithium ion batteries have a longer lifespan but are costly when compared to Lead-acid batteries and also have a high depth of discharge. Lithium-ion batteries are now common the world marketplace and costs of these batteries are also reducing with time. Having solar photovoltaic system installed with battery backup gives benefits to households and businesses.
Why Lithium-ion batteries for households and businesses:
- Superior capacity: Lithium-ion batteries have usable capacity of 90% and sometimes 100% depending on the manufacturer. Lead-acid battery, fairly old technology has usable capacity of 40% to 50%. Rated capacity of Lithium ion battery is usually very near to usable capacity.
- Improved life cycle: A well cared Lithium-ion battery can provide energy for 2000 to 5000 charge/discharge cycles. It just depends on the depth of discharge which is reached to recharge the battery. If Lithium-ion batteries are recharged at 40%to 50% depth of discharge then life cycle will proportionally increase. As compared to other battery types Lithium-ion battery life cycle are many times more.
- Capacity losses & voltage losses non-existent: A 20% charged Lithium-ion battery will give same output as 80% charged battery. There are no capacity losses and voltage losses in Lithium-ion battery and these batteries can power induction heaters, air conditioners and microwave etc unlike other batteries such as Lead-acid battery.
- Light weight and compact size: Lithium-ion batteries are very light in weight and compact in size as compared to other batteries. This is one of the reasons these batteries are used in so much applications. High power to weight ratio of these batteries makes them perfect for solar energy storage in compact environment.
- Efficient and fast charging: Lithium-ion batteries can charge really fast and sometimes even charge fully in 30 minutes if enough current is provided in limited time. There is no issue with this battery to undercharge or to be kept half-charged. These unlike Lead-acid batteries do not require fully charged state once fully discharged. This attribute makes them efficient for solar connected systems and can be charged when sun is shining and providing energy to the batteries.
- Little waste of energy: Lithium-ion batteries can save 100% of energy as compared to 85% in Lead-acid batteries. Solar energy generated by solar panels is very valuable and can be stored fully in Lithium-ion battery without any wastage.
- Climate resistant: Lithium-ion batteries do not alter much in their charge and discharge state in hot and cold climates as compared to other battery technologies. In -20oC, Lithium-ion battery can delivery 80% of its capacity.
- Easy installation: Due to high power to weight ratio and compact size, Lithium-ion battery can be placed in any suitable environment. These need not be stored in any specific direction or vented area.
- No maintenance required: A battery management system or specific charge controller is required to make the working of battery sound and secure. No additional maintenance requirements are required for these batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries with solar system for households and businesses have high potential looking at many benefits of solar system and battery technology for people and environment.
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