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Solar panel battery efficiency. The Benefits of Solar Power

Solar panel battery efficiency. The Benefits of Solar Power

    Solar PV and Battery Storage: the perfect mix for powering your energy efficiency and resilience

    The sharp drop in costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology in the last couple of years is widely opening access to this technology, as evidenced by the prolific and increasing pipeline of projects seen worldwide. Customers of different sizes are improving their energy efficiency by self-consuming onsite solar PV generation, but the benefits of this clean energy are not fully exploited due to its temporal inflexibility, i.e. solar PV generated energy cannot be used when it is most valuable.

    By combining Solar PV with Battery Storage to create hybrid renewable systems, organisations are benefiting from considerable and strong cost returns and unlocking new revenue opportunities, while improving their energy efficiency and resilience, and reducing their carbon footprint.

    What Is The Most Efficient Solar Panel On The Market?

    Falling costs and advancements in battery technology are increasing the affordability, durability and performance of battery storage. When co-located with solar, the commercial viability and wider benefits of both energy solutions are boosted.

    Solar and batteries make a natural and effective energy mix. We examine the five key benefits of combining these technologies:

    Improve energy resilience

    You can protect your site against the increasing number of energy-related failures observed in the grid by instantly switching on your off-grid battery stored solar power in the event of any disruption in your energy supply. In a fraction of a second, you can gain access to a carbon-free power supply to keep critical processes and equipment operational, ensuring the continuity of your business, even during a prolonged energy outage.

    Businesses should factor in the potential financial and wider business savings of solar battery energy resilience. The consequences of even the briefest power interruption in terms of damage to equipment, financial loss and inventory are serious. Our recent energy resilience report showed that 30% of our respondents had experienced energy disruptions which resulted in lost revenue. 23% reported equipment damage and 9% reported a drop in company value.

    Solar battery solutions can also add another tier of emergency power for critical facilities, such as hospitals and data centres. In other instances, batteries may replace traditional back-up generators.

    Increase the value of solar

    Solar is a plentiful and green resource for generating renewable electricity during daytime. Our experience shows that by storing surplus solar generated electricity during this time and then using it flexibly and efficiently at times of low generation or peak demand, businesses can improve their financial performance NPV (net present value) from solar by an average 30-40% – sometimes even more.

    This directly translates into increased sustainability and cost saving benefits from using more renewable energy and less expensive fossil-fuel energy. Consequently, it improves the return on investment of both the solar PV and battery, and can significantly increase the commercial viability of solar investment in the absence of subsidies and exposure to highly volatile wholesale energy markets.

    Reduce energy costs

    By using hybrid solar battery renewable systems, you can charge your battery at off-peak times and also at zero marginal cost when the sun is shining, to then utilise the stored energy at times when peak. This strategy can deliver huge cost savings, particularly if stored solar and cheap grid energy is used during red-Band DUoS and Triad periods. Centrica Business Solutions’ world leading forecasting capabilities enable us to accurately analyse and predict the highest cost periods to ensure that our customers can switch to battery power at the most opportune and valuable times.

    The commercial case for solar battery hybrids is strengthened because of the potential to earn income via commercialising available storage flexibility. The ultra-fast response time of modern battery technologies makes them ideal for lucrative grid support services, such as dynamic Firm Frequency Response (dFFR), which requires a two-second response time. Our patented Virtual Power Plant technology can help you capture up to 52% more value from dynamic FFR.

    In addition, businesses might benefit from the capacity market, which remunerates assets for being available to be dispatched at times of high system stress. There’s an additional opportunity to participate in the imbalance market, which serves the purpose of settling the imbalances between demand and supply.

    The research

    Backup power in an outage is crucial for anyone looking to maintain basic comfort and communication abilities. Scale it up to a larger system, and you can go beyond the basics, backing up more appliances and tools for more time until the grid power returns. These solutions are too customized for us to recommend specific batteries, to suggest how many kilowatt-hours of storage you need to run your home when the grid is down, or to outline how much solar production you need to keep your battery charged. Keep in mind, too, that other variables—including your specific energy needs, budget, and location (just about every state and utility has its own incentive programs, rebates, and tax credits)—all factor into your purchase decisions. The federal Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 also contains incentives that may affect your decision to add battery backup to an existing solar system: Through 2032, you’ll be able to claim 30% of the project cost as a tax credit when you file with the IRS.

    Our aim is to help you think through three things: the questions you need to ask yourself about the whats and whys of installing solar battery backup in your home, the questions you should ask potential installers when you meet with them, and the question of whether a battery-storage system primarily represents an investment in your own home’s resiliency or in the future grid as a whole. “That’s just like the first hour and a half of my conversations: telling people what they need to think about,” said Rebekah Carpenter, founder of Fingerlakes Renewables Solar Energy in upstate New York.

    I can see why. I needed to put in hours of research just to wrap my head around all the ins and outs, reviewing installation examples and playing the role of a prospective buyer. And I empathize with any person making this investment. You’ll be facing a raft of major decisions—from your choice of contractor to the design and manufacturers of your system to financing. And all of it will be wrapped in layers of technical jargon. Blake Richetta, CEO of battery maker Sonnen, said one major challenge he faces is simply to translate this information for his customers, or, as he put it, to “make it palatable for regular folks.” There truly is no simple way to address the question of whether, how, and why you should adopt solar battery storage.

    Why you should trust us

    Before I began this guide, my only experience with solar power was getting zapped by sun-powered cattle fences on a ranch in the high desert. So to give myself a crash course in solar battery storage, I spoke with more than a dozen sources, including the founders or executives of six battery manufacturers; five highly experienced installers, from Massachusetts, New York, Georgia, and Illinois; and the founder of EnergySage, a respected “unbiased solar matchmaker” that offers free and detailed advice to homeowners on all things solar-related. (EnergySage vets installers, who can then pay a fee to be included on the company’s list of approved contractors.) In an effort to provide a breadth of views as well as depth of knowledge, I sought out installers in areas of the country not always seen as solar-friendly, as well as those of diverse backgrounds, including one who focuses on providing solar power to impoverished rural communities. Late in the process, just for fun, I joined a call between an installer and my brother and sister-in-law (prospective solar and battery buyers in Texas), to hear what kinds of questions a pro asked them (and vice versa) about planning a new installation.

    Solar panels with backup battery storage are nothing new: People have been using banks of lead-acid batteries to store solar power for decades. But those systems are bulky, require regular maintenance, rely on toxic and corrosive materials, and often must be housed in a separate, weatherproof structure. Generally, they’re limited to rural, off-grid applications. This guide focuses on so-called grid-tied solar systems, in which solar panels supply power to both yourself and the grid. So we’re talking instead about the modern, compact, high-capacity lithium-ion batteries that first appeared in the 2010s.

    For many people, the first such system they heard of was Tesla’s Powerwall, announced in 2015. As of 2022, according to EnergySage founder Vikram Aggarwal, at least 26 companies are offering lithium-ion storage systems in the US, though just seven manufacturers account for almost all installations. From highest to lowest share, those manufacturers are Enphase, Tesla, LG, Panasonic, SunPower, NeoVolta, and Generac. You’re likely to encounter several of these names as you begin your research. But to ensure that you’re giving yourself the widest array of choices, it’s important to speak with multiple contractors, since most of them work with only two or three battery makers. (The differences between the batteries largely come down to chemistry, the type of input power they take, their storage capacity, and their load capacity, as described in the following paragraphs.)

    Fundamentally, though, all of the batteries work the same way: They store power from rooftop solar panels as chemical energy during the day, and then they release it as needed (most commonly at night, when the solar panels are idle, as well as during power outages) to keep your home’s appliances and fixtures running. And all batteries charge only via DC (direct current) power, the same sort that solar panels produce.

    But beyond that, there are many differences. “Batteries are not made the same,” Aggarwal said. “They have different chemistries. They have different wattages. They have different amperes. And how much amperage can be extracted from a battery at a given time, i.e., how many appliances can I run concurrently? There is no one-size-fits-all.”

    The amount of power that a battery can store, measured in kilowatt-hours, will of course be a key factor in your calculations. If your area rarely experiences long blackouts, a smaller and less expensive battery may suit your needs. If your area’s blackouts last a long time, a larger battery may be required. And if you have critical equipment in your home that absolutely cannot be allowed to lose power, your needs may be higher yet. These are all things to think about before you contact potential installers—and those professionals should listen to your needs and ask questions that help you refine your thinking.

    You have to consider a few other things, as well.

    The first is whether you’ll be installing a new solar system at the same time that you install battery storage, or whether you’ll be retrofitting a battery to an existing system.

    If everything will be new, you’ll have the widest range of options in both your choice of battery and your choice of solar panels. The majority of new installations use DC-coupled batteries. That means the DC electricity produced by your panels feeds into your home and directly charges the battery. The current then goes through a device called an inverter, which converts the DC (direct current) electricity to AC (alternating current) electricity—the type of power that homes use. This system offers the most efficient way to charge the batteries. But it involves running high-voltage DC into your home, which requires specialized electrical work. And several of the people I spoke with expressed reservations over the safety of high-voltage DC.

    What will this cost—and do you really need it?

    I live in New York City, where indoor solar battery storage is not allowed because of the fire code, and outdoor battery storage means navigating a Kremlinesque bureaucracy (PDF). (The joke being that almost nobody here has outdoor space to begin with.) Nor could I install a battery even if it were allowed—I live in a co-op apartment, not a freestanding home, so I don’t have my own roof for the solar panels. But even if I could install a battery, researching and writing this guide made me question whether I would. It’s worthwhile to ask yourself some fundamental questions before you pull the trigger.

    For starters, installing battery storage is inherently expensive. EnergySage’s data shows that in the last quarter of 2021, the median cost per kilowatt-hour of battery storage was almost 450,300. Of course, that means that half of the batteries on the company’s list cost less than that per kilowatt-hour (and half cost more). But even the lowest-cost battery maker on EnergySage’s list, HomeGrid, charges over 6,000 for a 9.6 kWh system. Batteries from the “big seven” (again, that’s Enphase, Tesla, LG, Panasonic, SunPower, NeoVolta, and Generac) cost from nearly one and a half times as much to over twice as much. “Currently it is for the well-to-do,” said EnergySage’s Aggarwal with a sigh. He added, however, that the cost of battery storage has long been on a downward trend, and he expects the trend to continue.

    Do you really need to spend a ton of money to meet your needs in a power outage? There are less-expensive options than high-kilowatt solar storage, including portable gasoline generators, lithium-ion portable power stations, and small solar battery chargers aimed at keeping devices running.

    The Best Portable Solar Battery Charger

    We tested 12 solar phone chargers and found that the BigBlue 28W USB Solar Charger is the best option for USB charging in the great outdoors.

    Those portable methods—even the rechargeable ones that are safe to use indoors—aren’t as convenient as plugging things into a wall outlet. Yet there are even ways to get household circuits working in an outage without a traditional rooftop-solar system. Goal Zero, which has had success selling solar generators to campers and RVers, also offers a home integration kit that uses those generators to power houses. In a blackout, you manually disconnect your home from the grid (a physical transfer switch is included in the installation work). You then run your home’s circuits on an external Goal Zero battery and recharge it with Goal Zero’s portable solar panels. In some ways, this Goal Zero kit splits the difference between the fully installed solar-plus-battery system and a more-basic solar battery charger. The use of a manual disconnection switch adds an extra step versus the automatic transfer switches used in grid-tied solar systems. The price? “We start at about 4,000 installed in your home for our 3-kilowatt-hour battery,” said company CEO Bill Harmon.

    All of these options have their downsides and limitations. A solar device charger will allow you to keep in touch with loved ones and give you access to news alerts in an emergency, but it won’t keep the fridge running. Fossil fuels can run out, leaving you stranded, and of course a fossil-fuel generator is not environmentally friendly. “But, that being said, if you’re only going to run it twice a year, two or three days a year, maybe you can live with the impact for now,” Aggarwal said. Several battery makers have incorporated the ability to use fossil-fuel generators to charge their batteries in the event of an extended blackout. Sonnen chairman and CEO Blake Richetta said if your goal is maximum resilience after a disaster, “You really should have a gas generator—a backup for the backup.”

    In short, it’s worth weighing your expected future hardships in an emergency against the cost of gaining resilience. I spoke with Joe Lipari, vice president for projects at Brooklyn SolarWorks (which, as the name suggests, operates in New York City, where, again, batteries aren’t yet an option), and he mentioned the great Northeast blackout of 2003. It was an unpleasant couple of days before the power came back on. But I’ve lived here for nearly 20 years, and it’s the only time I’ve ever lost power. Purely from an emergency-preparation perspective, I asked Lipari what I should take away from the 2003 outage—that is, was it a crisis to fortify against or a minimal risk to absorb? “People bring that up to us,” he replied. “Paying an extra 20,000 to get a battery storage system? Probably not necessary.”

    How long can you run your home on solar battery backup?

    We asked a lot of experts how long these systems can last in an outage, generally speaking. The short and conservative answer: less than 24 hours on a single battery. But claims vary so widely that the thorough answer to this question is less conclusive.

    In 2020, according to US Energy Information Administration figures, the typical US home consumed 29.3 kilowatt-hours per day. A typical solar backup battery can store somewhere around 10 kilowatt-hours. “I don’t have to tell you that this cannot run your whole house for a day,” said EnergySage’s Aggarwal. Batteries are generally stackable, which means you can string multiple batteries together to increase your storage. But, of course, doing so is not cheap. For many people, stacking is not practical—or even financially possible.

    But “how long can I run my home” is really the wrong way to think about solar storage in the context of a blackout. For one thing, you can expect your solar panels to both deliver power to your home and recharge your battery during the day—in sunny weather—thus continuously regenerating your backup power source. That adds a form of resilience that fossil-fuel generators lack, because once their gas or propane runs out, they’re useless until you can get more fuel. And that may be impossible in an emergency.

    The Mystery Flaw of Solar Panels

    to the point, during an outage, how much energy you conserve is at least as important as how much energy you can store. In order to make your battery last as long as possible, you’ll need to cut way back on your usage. Having lived through Hurricane Andrew in Miami, in 1992, I turned the challenges of that experience—no power for days, rotting groceries—into a line of inquiry. I asked all of the installers and battery makers I spoke to the same question: Assuming I want to keep the fridge running (for food safety), keep a couple of devices charged (for communication and information), and keep some lights on (for nighttime safety), how long can I expect a battery to last without recharging?

    Keyvan Vasefi, head of product, operations, and manufacturing at Goal Zero, said he and his wife have run multiple tests on their 3 kWh battery, and they typically can go for a day and a half with “fridge running, multiple phone recharges, and master bedroom and bathroom with lighting.” They have also done tests with their solar panels hooked to the battery. Even bearing in mind that Vasefi has an interest in selling this tech, I can say that he does make a compelling case for it: “We try to pretend it’s the end of the world and see what happens, and we can effectively get an indefinite run time” on those limited circuits, he said. “Batteries back to a hundred percent every day at 6:00 p.m. And we feel really good about that.”

    A 10 kWh battery can typically run a fridge, some lights, and several device chargers for two to three days, said Sven Amirian, vice president of Invaleon, a Massachusetts-based installer. That timeframe was echoed by Aric Saunders, senior vice president of battery-maker Electriq.

    When you get a battery installed, your contractor may ask you to choose a limited “emergency subset” of your home’s circuits, which they’ll then route through a subpanel. During an outage, the battery will feed only these circuits. (As an example, my dad has a propane backup generator at his home in Virginia, and it’s hooked up to one of his three air-conditioning units, the fridge, the kitchen outlets, an on-demand water heater, and some lights. The house doesn’t have TV, laundry, and other conveniences until the grid comes back. But having a partially cooled home and cold drinks has meant the difference between comfort and misery during the frequent summer blackouts.)

    You can also manually shut off individual breakers in your panel to limit the battery to feeding only those you consider critical. And all solar storage batteries come with apps that show you which circuits are being used, helping you find and eliminate power draws that you may have overlooked. “In real time, you can change your habits and maybe stretch out an extra day,” said Amirian. Note, though, that customer reviews of the apps are the same kind of mixed bag that we find for every Smart-appliance app we test: Some people love them, while others are frustrated by glitchy performance and buggy updates.

    Finally, battery makers are beginning to offer Smart panels. Through these you can use your app to toggle individual circuits on and off remotely and thus customize which circuits are in use at various times (say, disabling the bedroom lights and outlets during the day and turning them back on at night). And the battery’s software will also take steps to optimize your power usage, closing down circuits that aren’t needed. But Amirian cautioned that installing a Smart panel is not simple or cheap. “There’s a lot of customer education that has to happen, the pros and cons, costs and benefits, of ‘I want to be able to control every circuit’ versus ‘That’s going to be 10,000 of electrical work for a two-day blackout.’”

    Photovoltaics and Types of Solar Panels

    The industry standard for solar electric systems is based on photovoltaic, or PV, technology, which converts sunlight into electricity. Multiple solar cells are interconnected to create a module, which comprises the panel.

    Each panel is usually connected together in a system in which electricity is sent to an inverter to provide the power needed to run household electric devices. Efficiency is often dependent on the design of the panel and how it is engineered to capture different frequencies of light energy. Consider the following designs:

    • Monocrystalline Silicon Panels. The most efficient type of photovoltaic solar panel available today is currently monocrystalline, or single, silicon panel. Because of the higher silicon content used in the design, they are more expensive than alternative types of panels. energy is converted into electricity, so fewer panels are needed in most roof installations to meet the same power requirements. These types of square-shaped panels are ideal for roof mounted solar electric systems.
    • Polycrystalline Silicon Panels. With lower amounts of silicon utilized in polycrystalline, or multi-layered, silicon panels, they are often cheaper than their more efficient counterparts. They implement a design to help reduce this efficiency loss, allowing them to be utilized on roof mounted systems. This makes them ideal for larger projects and installations because they cost less. Polycrystalline silicon panels are also resistant more resistant to heat.
    • Building Integrated Photovoltaic Panels. Appearance is an important aspect of a building. As with many historic buildings, or ones that feature unique architectural designs, owners might be hesitant to alter the distinctive character of a structure by installing a solar electric system. To help mitigate the aesthetic changes that solar panels might bring, building integrated photovoltaics are available. While they may be able to keep the look of traditional roofing, these types of panels are more costly and less efficient than the alternatives.
    • Thin-Film Solar Cell Technology – Thin film cells are a newer photovoltaic technology that consists of one or multiple layers of thin films of photovoltaic cells that are laminated to existing material, such as metal roofing or glass Windows. These photovoltaic films are very thin allowing them to be lighter and more flexible compared to other PV systems. While thin-film technology is extremely versatile, it comes at a cost. Thin-film systems are less efficient and can degrade faster than conventional solar systems, but are improving with technology advancements.

    Factors That Can Impact Efficiency

    Solar power efficiency depends on a variety of factors including proper installation and assessment of the structure. Hiring a professional to inspect the structural design and location of your building is essential in determining what type of installation will best meet your requirements and provide you with the long-term economic benefits of solar power. Empire Renewable Energy offers a range of services for commercial and residential applications:

    • Most solar panels are designed with a layer of protective glass over the cells, which sunlight must pass through. The amount of energy harnessed is dependent on the angle in which light is passing through, as well as the reduction of reflectivity of the glass.
    solar, panel, battery, efficiency, benefits
    • Proper installation of a solar panel is significant to capturing the maximum amount of sunlight. The angle of the panel and the amount of light hitting it are both important factors that will help you maximize efficiency.
    • For roof mounted panels, the slope of the roof will impact how much sunlight is hitting the panels throughout the day. Large commercial installations can compensate for the movement of the Earth by installing solar tracking systems, but due to the expense, they are not typically installed for residential use.
    • Temperature can impact the overall output of a solar cell. Higher temperatures can reduce output and lower efficiency. Some solar panels are designed for warmer climates, where efficiency must be maintained as temperatures climb. Ensure you select the right panel that is best suited to your climate, so you can enjoy a better return on your investment.
    • Even a small shaded area on solar panels can greatly reduce their output. Since panels are often wired together in a system, even a small shadow on one panel can drastically reduce the system’s overall energy production. It is ideal to install panels in a way that no shadows will fall on any of them. In some situations this may be difficult to avoid, so alternatives are available to help maintain efficiency.

    Types of Solar Installations Offered by Empire

    Deciding on the type of installation for your business or home is also essential if you want to get the most out of your investment. As space and architectural designs vary for each customer, there are many options available:

    • Roof Mount Solar Installation- Roof mount installations are a popular option for both commercial and residential customers. They offer a way to capture the solar energy that naturally hits your rooftop every day.
    • Pole Mounts Solar Installation- For those with limited roof space, pole mounted systems can be installed, but they require a designated area of land for proper installation.
    • Ground Mounts Solar Installation- Similar to pole mountings, ground mounted systems are placed in yards and fields. They are useful for those who have limited roof space or own the large amount of land required to maximize the benefits of solar energy systems.
    • Shelters Solar Installation. For those looking to cut down on energy expenses, alternative outdoor structures such as gazebos and structural awnings can be equipped with solar energy systems.
    • Parking Lot Canopies Installation- For installations that house large parking areas, solar energy can be harnessed to reduce electricity expenses and provide shade to customers in designated parking areas.
    • Shade Awnings- For buildings with limited space, replacing traditional awnings with solar panels is a great way to lower monthly energy expenses while still providing the same function.
    • Detached Garage Solar Installation. For many, roof space and parking space may be limited. Detached garage installations, however, can still provide economic benefits to residences where roof mount installations are not possible.
    • Building Integrated PV Systems. For some buildings, the historic or general aesthetic is vital to the structure’s architectural character. Solar installations that are integrated into the building’s design can help minimize changes to the appearance while still providing the benefits of solar energy systems.

    Solar and Battery Storage Incentives

    Solar batteries may be eligible for both state and federal incentives, depending on the specifics of the installation.

    solar, panel, battery, efficiency, benefits

    The primary incentive currently available for batteries is the federal. which is now at 30% with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) signed into law.

    That means you can claim 30% of your total solar and/or battery project cost as a tax credit. One of the new changes in the IRA is that battery storage no longer needs to be connected to solar in order to qualify for the tax credit. In other words, standalone battery storage and battery added to existing solar systems qualify for the new tax credit.

    solar, panel, battery, efficiency, benefits

    This state program offers an additional rebate for homeowners installing batteries who have particular backup needs. These include being located in Tier 2 and Tier 3 fire areas, needing backup for medical equipment, meeting low-income thresholds, etc.

    solar, panel, battery, efficiency, benefits

    There are also Bring Your Own Battery programs, in which utilities provide incentives for purchasing battery and connecting it to the grid.

    Our Energy Advisors would be happy to assist any California homeowners looking for more information on the state’s SGIP program.

    Solar Battery Options

    So, what are the options when it comes to solar batteries?

    The most common batteries on the market today are the Tesla Powerwall. LG Chem. and Sonnen. Check out our individual articles for deeper dives on each of these products.

    Homeowners can also purchase multiple batteries if they want to. The right number of batteries depends on a number of factors, including the size of the solar system, the amperage of circuits that need to be backed up, and the desired backup duration.

    Speak with one of our Energy Advisors if you’d like to find out the right combination for you.

    The Future of Solar and Battery Storage

    Solar batteries have become an important aspect of modern solar systems, and their importance will only grow over the coming years.

    Battery capability will continue to advance as continue to fall. Electric utilities are increasingly turning to batteries to stabilize their grids, with some utilities even paying homeowners for access to their home batteries to dispense power to the grid when it’s needed most.

    Without question, solar batteries are here to stay.

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    Mercedes-Benz Halts Home Battery Program

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    How Long Can Solar Battery Power a House During an Outage?

    When you install a home battery, what you are really doing is providing your home with a backup energy reserve in the case of an.

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    How Home Batteries Help In Storms

    There are several factors that influence a solar panel owner’s decision to include a home battery in their system, but one of the primary reasons.

    How Many Batteries Do I Need For Solar?

    An important thing to consider when installing a solar panel system is whether or not you want to add batteries for energy storage capabilities. There.

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