Solar batteries are now established as one of the 3 major components of a solar power system, but it wasn’t always that way.
A solar power system needs panels, it is the panels that convert the sun’s energy into electricity. It also needs an inverter to transform the current so it can be used on your household appliances. What a solar power system doesn’t need is a battery.
Batteries do not generate or transform electricity, they store it, and this makes them less crucial to the overall process. To this day, some solar power systems do not come with batteries included. Despite all this, solar batteries are fast becoming an essential part of any solar power system.
Why are Batteries Becoming More Important?
Here’s an overview of the situation:
- Solar Power Systems generate all their energy in the day
- The average household uses most of its energy in the evening
- The day’s energy needs to be saved until the evening rolls around and for that, you need a battery.
Sunlight is present for approximately 12 to 14 hours a day during the average Australian summer. It is at its most potent throughout the middle of the day. Therefore, a solar power system generates all of its energy during the day.
We are stating the obvious here, but remember that many people are not in their homes during the day. Children are at school and parents are out at work. Even households with people at home throughout the day should not require as much electricity as during the night.
The result is that solar power systems will often generate surplus electricity – electricity that the house is not using. As all that power beams down and no one is at home to use it, you get a surplus. Without a battery, surplus electricity is fed back into the national electricity grid.
The Grid and Nighttime Electricity Usage
There are two problems with the surplus electricity scenario we have detailed above. Firstly, most households use the majority of their electricity at night. Everybody comes home from their day’s activities, the lights come on, the TV’s and computers come on and the household gets tapped for electricity. So, a house needs the sun’s energy the most when the sun is not there.
The second problem is that you now have to buy electricity from the electricity grid. Even worse, they are selling it to you at a higher price than what they bought from you earlier in the day. Rather than lose money in this fashion, the best thing to do is to install a solar storage battery into your solar power system.
The economic reasoning behind the argument for solar batteries is so sound that it begs the question, why did it take so long for batteries to become the norm?
Firstly, the technology has improved. Batteries today are getting smaller than ever, but they still take up a sizable amount of wall space. Imagine how clunky a battery would have been 20 years ago. They are also less expensive now then they were in the past.
As the industry has advanced, and that means as the manufacturers, the installers, and the regulators have all become more experienced working with solar, batteries have become easier to make and install and less expensive for the consumer. It has taken all this improvement to get batteries to the point where they can pay for themselves.
Batteries Have a Shelf Life
Batteries are charged and discharged repeatedly throughout their lifecycle. The 20th cycle is less efficient than the 10th cycle, and after 1000 cycles they are way less efficient than they were after 500 cycles. Eventually, they become useless.
The trouble with batteries originally, was that they were becoming useless before they had even paid down their initial cost. If a battery costs $10,000 but brakes down before it has saved you $6000, then it is not worth buying right?
It took the industry a while to get to the point where batteries were cheap enough, and lived long enough, to pay for themselves. Today’s batteries can do that comfortably.
Today, major electronic giants such as Sony, Tesla, and Samsung are all making solar storage batteries. The batteries themselves are now better looking, more powerful, and more durable than ever before. The future is bright for batteries because they are becoming a necessity.
These major companies are developing and manufacturing batteries because all scientific, commercial, and industrial research points to an increasing reliance on renewable fuels. As we break away from fossil fuel usage, solar and wind power will take some of the burdens. The trouble with solar and wind energy is that it is volatile, and manifests intermittently depending on location. In order to have a stable supply of electricity we must harness renewable energy, and a big part of that is being able to store surplus energy.
What this means is that batteries on both an industrial, and a residential scale will need to evolve and increase in capacity. The last few years have already seen movement from lead-acid batteries to lithium-ion, and from lithium-ion to sodium nickel chloride…and on it will go.
The majority of solar power systems will soon include a battery, and we may even reach the time soon where large scale batteries cover whole districts as is the case with solar farms.