Solar panel and battery

The problem of how to store the energy supplied by your solar panels has long been an issue when it comes to the popularity of the technology. In the past, any excess energy made during the day (when the sun was shining) would be simply sold back to the grid and in the evening the household would need to use energy from the grid in the usual way. For those wishing to be fully self-supporting, this wasn’t ideal. Additionally, what about those days when the sun isn’t shining?

The technology has become a hot topic and could signal a new and important step forward for the beleaguered solar panel industry. The government has recognised the importance of this new technology and has promised a funding grant of £246m for research and electric car developer Elon Musk has also put his efforts into the development of probably the best storage battery on the market so far.

How does battery storage work?

Household storage batteries designed to work with solar panels have recently become accessible for the domestic market and some are promising to offer enough storage to last at least a full day. The system works by drawing off unused energy and storing it in a battery rather than sending it to the grid. The household can then use that stored energy when the solar panels are no longer offering the energy requirements. This reduces the pull on the National Grid – allowing them to more effectively use available energy.

There are a number of companies offering battery storage at the moment with Tesla being the most well known, however, companies such as Samsung, PowerVault and even Mercedes are getting in on the act. The batteries currently on offer range between a 14kWh model that could last an entire day and ones that offer just a backup option.

Is it cost effective?

The main question will be whether battery storage is actually worthwhile. This is a new technology and therefore is still an expensive option. The largest battery storage systems can cost as much as £10,000, while the cheapest come in at around £1000. This may seem like a worthwhile investment for anyone who is forced or wants to live off-grid. However, for the rest of us, this cost may still be prohibitive as the pay-back time is likely to be long.

At this time the feed-in-tariff is not affected if you choose to store your energy rather than sell it back to the grid. The tariff is still paying solar panel owners as if they are exporting some of their energy. This situation is likely to change as the technology becomes cheaper and more popular. In the meantime though, there is no loss in terms of income made from solar power and there could even be a gain as you don’t need to buy additional energy.

Battery storage is a watch this space technology, but with some of the biggest players getting involved it could soon be the answer to our energy capacity issues.