Owners of solar systems are slowly turning to batteries, but deep subsidies have greased the wheels. Are they good value? FIMER country manager Jason Venning and Soltaro CEO Tynan Coles explain how they see storage stacking up.
How can installers explain the value in batteries when talking to residential customers about solar PV?
Jason Venning, FIMER: The value of batteries depends on what homeowners want to achieve. Just looking at the price of an energy storage solution may put off some households as pricing is still relatively high across the board and remains a significant investment for most families.
Having a battery system installed becomes a lot more valuable if they want to reduce their electricity costs, reduce their environmental footprint and become more self-sufficient, have visibility and control over their energy consumption and have peace of mind knowing that they can have some power in a blackout.
How can residential PV system owners get the best value out of a battery?
Tynan Coles, Soltaro: To get best value from a battery we recommend customers use their battery as much as possible and take advantage of integral features such as blackout protection. Consumer education is a must alongside utilising timed start features on appliances such as washing machines, dryers and air-conditioning to maximise cycles per day of their battery. Many customers will find their own way towards efficiency but thorough information about the most efficient PV energy to battery path – like a DC hybrid system – is a great place to start.
Venning, FIMER: Choose a system that suits your needs. Some systems are only one size, which may be too large for your needs and you may be outlaying significant dollars for a system you won’t fully utilise. Other systems are modular, where you can install one, two or three 4kWh modules depending on your energy or budget requirements.
An energy system with real-time consumption monitoring will allow you to track what your system is generating, storing, exporting and using, allowing you to shift loads to when you can use self-produced energy. Also, systems with built-in load management can switch loads in and out automatically depending on what your energy requirements are.
What are some good ways to use a battery to ensure it has a long life?
Venning, FIMER: The first is to ensure the battery is installed in a suitable location – choose an area where the temperature is as low and constant as possible and not in direct sunlight. Secondly, the fewer cycles a battery makes per day, the longer it should last. I have my home battery system cycling once a day; it charges once a day and discharges once every evening.
Tynan Coles, Soltaro: If the user has to find good ways to maintain the health of their battery, then the chances are they’ve been sold the wrong system for them. The key to a good storage system is using the battery as much as possible. It is natural that some degradation of battery capacity will occur over its lifetime and it’s important that consumers are given honest facts. At Soltaro we have integrated the BMS with the inverter which ensures the battery life is being optimised regardless of how the customer wants to use their stored energy.