Solar panel systems have become one of the fastest-growing sources of energy in the United States. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar market is expected to double in size by 2023, becoming a $4.5 billion market by that time.
Solar plus storage: Solar batteries for home explained
To appreciate why you might choose to install a solar-plus-storage system for your home, you first need to understand how a standard home solar PV system functions.
The typical solar energy system includes solar panels, an inverter, equipment to mount the panels on your roof, and a performance monitoring system that tracks electricity production. The solar panels collect energy from the sun and turn it into electricity, which is passed through the inverter and converted into a form that you can use to power your home.
The vast majority of residential solar energy systems are connected to the electricity grid (or “grid-tied”). When your panels are producing more electricity than your home needs, the excess is fed back into the power grid. Conversely, when your home needs more electricity than your solar panels are producing, you can draw power from the electric grid.
In most cases, you receive a credit on your utility bill for the electricity you send back to the grid. Later, when you are using more electricity than your solar panels have generated, you can use those credits instead of having to pay more to your utility. This process is known as net metering.
How is solar energy stored in batteries?
Solar batteries work by storing energy produced by your solar panels for later use. In some cases, solar batteries have their own inverter and offer integrated energy conversion. The higher your battery's capacity, the more solar energy it can store.
When you install a solar battery as part of your solar panel system, you are able to store excess solar electricity at your home instead of sending it back to the grid. If your solar panels are producing more electricity than you need, the excess energy goes towards charging the battery. Later, when your solar panels aren’t producing electricity, you can draw down the energy you stored earlier in your battery for night use. You’ll only send electricity back to the grid when your battery is fully charged, and you’ll only draw electricity from the grid when your battery is depleted.
What this means in practical terms is that homes with solar-plus-storage can store excess solar power onsite for use later when the sun isn’t shining. As a bonus, since solar batteries store energy at your home, they also offer short-term backup power in the event that there’s a power outage in your area.
Should you install a solar battery at your home?
Whether you can save money by installing a solar battery depends on the way that your utility compensates you for your solar power. Most utilities offer full net metering, which means that you receive a credit on your electric bill for every kilowatt-hour of electricity your solar panels produce (even if you don’t use them immediately). This means that you won’t see additional savings on your monthly electricity bill if you install a solar battery.
However, there are many situations where a solar battery can improve the economics of solar panels for your home or business. If your utility has time-of-use rates or demand charges, or does not offer net metering, solar batteries can help you save more when you go solar.