Solar Energy Storage: To Integrate or Not to Integrate
You’ve got that beautiful new solar panel array you’ve been thinking about all planned out. You can see it now, the deep beautiful blue of the panels gracing the roof of your home, providing low-cost power for you and your family, even in times when the grid has faded out. The only thing left to consider is how you’re going to store the excess power the sun generates, and whether or not you want to take the daring move of being completely unconnected from the grid.
Points to Consider in Solar Energy Storage
- Choosing a battery type
- Lead-Acid Batteries
- Lithium Ion Batteries
- Whether to Integrate your system
Solar Energy Storage Batteries
There are a myriad of types of batteries available on the market today, but the two most common are Lithium-Ion batteries, and Valve-Regulated Lead-Acid Batteries (VRLA). Each of them has their benefits that need to be considered before you settle on one including price, lifespan, charge capacity, and overall size.
Lead-Acid Batteries (VRLA)
These batteries are one of the most commonly used in solar power storage devices, sharing the twin traits of familiarity and availability as the battery preference for your average car. The greatest benefit coming from VRLA is the small initial investment, these batteries are by far the least expensive option when it comes to solar power storage solution. It’s essentially this one aspect that makes them preferable over Lithium-Ion batteries, in every other way they are largely inferior.
Lithium Ion Batteries
Lithium-Ion batteries come with a whole suite of advantages over Lead-Acid Batteries, the start of which is convenience. They are a more compact solution than Lead-Acid batteries, capable of being mounted or installed just about anywhere that you’d like. Wall-mounted storage arrays aren’t at all unheard of with Lithium-Ion batteries. Additionally, they have lifespans and max charges far beyond their lead-acid counterparts, and are completely maintenance free. The drawback for all of these benefits of storing solar power is a significantly higher initial investment cost, which is often mitigated over the lifetime of the battery.
Should you integrate your solar energy storage system?
Integration is a complicated sounding word that simply means that your storage system is patched into the local utility grid. While solar power used to be the solution for those who were unable to patch into a local utility system, or were looking to remove their reliance on the same, this has recently started to change. These systems have started to be used by those who live in urban environments, helping to offset the cost of the monthly power bill and maintaining power and connectivity during power outages.
While integration is often regulated, and in some cases required by local ordinances, there are a few major benefits that can’t be ignored. First, integration allows your solar energy storage to be supplemented by grid power during periods of high use. During those times where your power generation is outpacing your usage, that excess electricity gets fed first to your batteries, and then out to the grid itself. The local utilities are required to pay you for any electricity you feed back into the system, so not only can you offset your power bill by reducing your reliance on the grid, you can actually receive a check from your local utility!