You hear it all the time: Solar power is the future of renewable energy. Once solar energy really took off, everyone talked about how cheap solar power is and how you could easily get solar panels and start generating your own electricity from the sun’s rays. Then Solar Phoenix got less disruptive to the traditional utilities; solar cells and other devices that will allow homeowners to cut the electric utility cord or at least avoid peak, high-priced energy costs have been on the market for a few years now, and many homeowners have already gotten a taste of the benefits. Now, however, battery storage systems are the new disruptive technology. They have already been installed on a large scale by several large corporations to take advantage of distributed renewable power.
It’s not too hard to see why solar batteries are becoming such a big deal. Renewable energy from the sun is free and abundant. There’s no pollution to it, so it’s just plain common sense to generate your own electricity with renewable resources. Unfortunately, it’s also fairly complicated to do so. That’s where battery storage systems enter the picture.
As you may have guessed, solar batteries are actually pretty simple in their design. Typically, they consist of three layers: an epoxy layer, a lead-acid battery, and some kind of cathode, which take the electrons in the process and send them into a collector plate. The cathode is actually pretty amazing: it absorbs the electrons and puts them back into the battery. Sounds easy enough, but there’s a lot of science to that simple setup. Lithium-ion batteries are the most commonly used but also have the biggest upfront cost.
But storage isn’t the only thing to consider. In fact, it’s really not even the storage part per se, but rather the overall efficiency of the system. For a storage system to have a real, noticeable effect on your electricity bills, you must use it to its fullest potential. To do this, the amount of electricity flowing through your system must be kept at the levels necessary to meet your projected usage. You can do this by monitoring your energy consumption closely and adjusting your electrical generation accordingly. By varying the load requirements and the period of time your system draws power from the grid, you can effectively reduce your electricity bills.
With more people choosing to source their own solar energy, it’s also becoming more important for people to learn about the benefits of net metering as well. Net metering allows you to “bank” or “pool” excess energy which you receive from your solar panels. This means that when you use up more energy than you’re generating, your excess electricity is sent back to the grid, so your actual direct connection to the grid is reduced.
When you don’t use all of your stored energy however, your batteries will run down. If you don’t have any storage batteries available, then you will need to rely on the electric company’s grid to provide you with power. This means you will either need to buy more storage batteries, or have the electrical company add your surplus energy to their own grid. Both of these options are expensive and not very practical, so the net metering system provides an excellent opportunity for both of these possibilities to happen.
Another advantage to net metering is the reduction in demand charges you will receive from your utility. This is often referred to as “smart metering.” By placing certain energy storage devices in strategic locations around your property, you can easily reduce the amount of demand charges you’re paying. Demand charges are often referred to as “tolls” or “usage fees,” and they’re one of the biggest factors that drive up your energy costs. By storing excess energy that you generate yourself, you can bypass this expense altogether.
The combination of a solar-plus-storage system and a smart meter is an excellent way to not only save money on your utility bill but also to help offset the cost of installing a solar system on your roof. You’ll be able to generate more electricity than you normally would by using your normal solar panels. Then you’ll be able to store it efficiently and use as little electricity as possible. If you live in a part of the country that receives many suns, this could be the major energy savings. In fact, some states and local municipalities have already passed laws requiring that you install a solar-plus-storage system if you want to receive electricity tax credits.