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What is Solar and Battery Storage?

Solar Installation of solar panels on a roof.

Its a hot topic right? you have probably been hearing lots of people talking about it, planning it, even getting it installed…. but what is it? How does it work?

In short….

Solar is a system that can be installed using solar panels (often on the roof) to harness energy from the sun, converting this into usable electrical energy, which can be used in your home.

Battery Storage is a system that creates the ability to store electrical energy, that can later be converted into usable electrical energy.

The two are completely separate systems that can be brought together to maximise your cost savings and renewable energy usage.

How? ….. Well keeping this as a fundamentals blog, the surplus electrical energy generated by solar panels can be stored in the battery, until such time that the property energy demands exceed what the solar panels can produce, at which time the battery can make up some or all of the energy demand shortfall. For this to happen the installation will need to convert the stored Battery energy, or solar energy, in a DC form, to an AC form to meet the electrical requirements of all your appliances, gadgets and that of the energy supply network. This is why all installations will have an “Inverter” which is a smart piece of kit that carries out this process and safely creates energy for you to use.

 

So now we know what it is, the next questions is usually “Is it something that can save me money?”……The answer is ….. Possibly.

With energy storage systems, there are a number of factors that dictate the price such as size of system, location of system, complexity of installation, energy use, cost of materials, energy prices and how long you plan to stay at the property.

There is not a one size fits all system yet, so its impossible to say if a renewable installation is right for you, without a survey and assessment of you needs and building.

One factor that is fairly universal to most situations, if you are planning on leaving your home in the near future, due to moving, age or ill health, then its likely you are not going to see the benefits of a renewable investment. On average it takes between 8 and 12 years to see a return on a solar and battery storage investment. This return can be quicker as energy prices increase or if you maximise the energy generating output by using an electric vehicle.

Be weary of anyone offering free solar installations or huge “grants” being offered by the government, as unfortunately there are very few available and almost all properties do not fall within the threshold.

Solar and battery storage has to be based entirely upon the circumstances of the installation location and end user.

Lets look at a really simple cost example: 3 Bed house, spending £120 per month (Average across year) on electricity. Gas Boiler for water, with an additional £90 per month spend (Average Across Year).

Overall Monthly Energy Cost £210

Cost of a solar and Battery storage installation £11,000

So lets estimate that the installation meets 70% of the annual household needs for electricity saving. It would take just under 11 years to see a return based on current energy prices (although they are likely to rise, speeding up your return on investment time)

Lets also assume that we can use the solar energy to heat the water now, reducing the gas demand, reducing your gas costs by 30%, that reduces your return on investment time down to just 9 years.

If you add in an electric vehicle, air source heat pump and surplus energy generated being sold back to the grid, then the return on your investment speeds up even more.

These are just simple numbers, to give an overview of how it can work, however there are variables that can really hit the investment return period making it hard or even impossible to save the money invested.

How Long does the equipment last? 

This is a common question, as this will greatly effect your return on your investment. If the equipment fails on or before the break even point of system cost to energy savings, then it would make it completely pointless having it installed. So lets look at the longevity.

Solar panels generally have a 25 year life expectancy, with marginal output losses over time. Once they are no longer functional, they can be unbolted and replaced fairly quickly.

Battery Storage systems generally come with a 10 year warranty. Although there are some functional energy storage losses year on year, its assumed that they will still have 60% – 80% of storage capacity compared to when new, at the 10 year mark. As with solar panels, should an upgrade be required, the process is much simpler as the infrastructure has been installed when the system was initially installed.

Mounting Rails and Electrical Components are not able to be defined as its assumed they will not degrade and lose performance as the energy production and storage systems do.

Generally there is no reason, if designed correctly and installed correctly, that your energy production investment wont far surpass your break even point, saving a lot of money, while future proofing your home, or even giving you that off grid backup if the public energy systems were to fail.

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