For Consumers, Renewables, Storage

Behind the scenes of the solar storage revolution

Storage batteries are indeed the holy grail of renewable energy and a significant element to the massive transition from fossil fuels. The lithium-ion battery to be precise is the future that is already here with us, a power revolution for our homes.

An energy revolution on the horizon

Buying a home energy storage system has been an option available to many Australians for some time now, however the batteries and other storage components have been cumbersome, expensive and difficult to operate and maintain. This is one of the reasons why residential energy storage has, up until now, been largely confined to storage buffs and off-grid applications.

Now, the emergence of the lithium-ion batteries and related technology is shifting all that. The next gen energy storage is expected to be cheaper and streamlined. In the near future, plug-and-play, set and forget battery storage for homes will become commonplace in Australian households that use solar.

Benefits of lithium-ion batteries

Lithium-ion batteries come in almost any device you can think of – tablets, power tools, cell phones, notebook computers, and electric cars. They have some inherent features that make them distinct from the wet-cell lead acid batteries like those found in your car. These features include:

  • lighter
  • higher energy density
  • lower maintenance
  • lower self-discharge
  • increased cycle life
  • “memory effect”

Battery storage to provide ‘zero dollar’ power bills

According to a report by the Climate Council of Australia, a combination of solar panels and home battery storage will be the cheapest way for Australians to power their homes and businesses.

With home battery storage estimated to grow 50-fold in the next 10 years, the report entitled Powerful Potential: Battery Storage for Renewable Energy and Electric Cars predicts that as early as 2018, going off-grid will be cost-competitive with staying connected. The report also indicates that as the feed-in tariffs (FITs) are phased out and grid electricity cost increases, Australia could become the leading market for the solar battery storage within the same period.

“Anyone who has PV on their roof knows they’re paid a fraction – maybe a tenth – of what it costs them to buy power off the grid,” the Climate Council’s Andrew Stock said.

“If they have a tool, a battery, that can allow them to store the surplus power during the day and use it at night, it means they’re going to get greater control than they already have over their power bill.”

The bottom line: how much will it cost?

Up until early last year, the cost of a seven kilowatt battery together with an inverter and installation was way above $15,000. However, in the past few months, prices have dropped rapidly by more than a third. The cost is expected to drop drastically with time.

Analysts predict that by 2020, the prices of storage batteries will have fallen and grid-supplied power charges will rise to a level that will make batteries the mainstream solar storage device. This will lead to lower power bills resulting savings in hundreds of thousands of dollars for consumers.

Why Australia is predicted to adopt home battery storage faster than others

Half of all Australian households are expected to take up solar systems coupled with home battery storage, creating a potential market growth of $24 billion. Of course, this technology will be disruptive to network operators in the market, and in fact, some companies are already adjusting their power prices to discourage coupling of solar and battery.

The country enjoys a lot of sunshine, has a tech-savvy community, its electricity costs have skyrocketed over time, and has a population that really wants immediate change in the energy industry.

“This is perverse, because battery systems, coupled with PV, can actually help networks get much better use out of their assets by smoothing out the demand on the grid,” the Climate Council’s Andrew Stock added.

“That should mean that network companies don’t need to invest anywhere near as much at adding capacity in the future, and they get better use out of the existing capacity.”

Understanding the grid’s superstructure

Australia has three main electricity grids – one in WA, another in the Northern Territory, and the Eastern Seaboard grid (which is currently the largest interconnected electricity system in the whole world). This is really complex and it’s one hell of a job managing it.

Mention the term grid and what comes to the minds of most Aussies is energy storage where power generated from coal or gas is stored and used as needed. Unfortunately, that’s not how the traditional grid works. Apparently, there’s little electricity storage. Generally, demand is met by turning up or down the power stations just the way we turn on or off our lights. However, with the grid, operators have to get it right on a minute-by-minute basis otherwise too much power would blow up our power poles and not enough power would mean blackout. And of course, when the safety mechanisms kick in, so does blackout.

So, how does this massive network keep accurate pace with our modern lives? Well, it takes a complex interaction between grid operators and power generators, all which work through the National Electricity Market (NEM).

What this means for power consumers

This simply means that the more electricity people use, the more expensive it becomes. Based on demand, NEM, the wholesale price for electricity can either go up or down. Everything seems to be under control right now, but what if the energy consumption spikes instantly? Fortunately, the Snowy Hydro Scheme as well as the gas-fired plants can respond immediately to prevent a blackout.

All they have to do is twist the tap up and more power is instantly churned out. At the end of the day, they earn a special premium for this. Now, this is where your battery storage comes in handy as a solution to earn you money.

Battery storage is an important element of the switch to renewable energy. As more renewable power is added into the system, the general influx of intermittent energy complicates further the management of the grid.

South Australia for example has encountered situations where more renewable energy is produced than what people require. The only option has been to export the excess power to others states like Victoria. If this was the case across the entire country, then there would be no place to export this power other than the batteries. Solar battery storage is expected to redefine the energy space.

The home batteries are a fundamental game changer and part of the revolution predicted to make renewable power a 24-hour power. These devices will smooth out the grid, store excess power and rapidly release power when needed.

With over 1.4 million households in Australia having installed solar panels, topping this with battery storage would create the biggest power station in the country’s system.

Energy experts always told us that solar is good, wind is good, but they were not base load power. Well, the lithium-ion storage battery is simply that; a battery revolution with base load power.

Want solar battery storage?

Many Australian households are already embracing the battery storage to reduce their daily dependence on the conventional power companies that have for decades controlled and manipulated them.

Previously, consumers would pump their excess energy into the grid and get paid seven cents a kilowatt hour. They would buy the same electricity four times this price. With the lithium battery, a household will earn more money without doing anything except exporting excess power to the grid.

Batteries are the thing that is bringing the ultimate revolution to enable 24-hour renewable energy.

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