Harnessing the power of the sun is a smart clean-energy solution. Harvesting it for future use is a brilliant move. When paired with photovoltaic (PV) panels in a “solar plus storage” system, solar batteries give you the ability to store, control and use your solar energy to your own advantage — as efficiently as possible.
Solar plus storage systems are the next big thing in renewable energy for good reason. Installed with new or existing components, a solar battery storage system optimizes your entire solar package — letting you use more of the power generated by your own solar panels to further reduce your reliance on the grid. Figuring out how to store solar power for later use will pay off in the long run, despite the considerable upfront cost.
Solar energy is already one of the fastest growing renewable resources in the US. Solar plus storage is projected to soar for both residential and commercial use as demand for clean energy continues to increase. The cost of solar is already dropping across the US. Deployment of large scale solar projects with batteries will further bring the costs of solar energy storage down due to competition and economies of scale.
What is Solar Plus Storage?
Solar plus storage combines solar panels and battery storage in one connected system for optimal energy management. A solar-plus-storage system does the following:
- First, the PV panels capture energy from the sun to meet your current load.
- Next, the PV panels charge the battery, storing the extra solar energy you don’t need for later use.
- When (and only when) your solar battery is fully charged, the system exports the excess energy back to the grid.
- As a bonus, when wired for backup power, the battery automatically provides power to essential loads (like your refrigerator and internet) in a grid outage.
In solar energy storage systems, the batteries store the excess energy produced by your PV solar panels. Equipped with the latest smart technologies, advanced solar plus storage systems monitor and redirect the excess energy to your battery, rather than back to the grid. They can also detect a demand that can’t be met by the PV system alone and use responsive technology to anticipate and meet your needs.
Solar-Plus-Storage systems use a large-capacity solar battery for both storage and backup power. The battery can be added to an existing solar system or installed at the same time (by a registered electrician). When researching solar energy storage methods, remember to factor in materials, hardware and installation costs as well as the batteries themselves. (See “How Do Solar Plus Storage Systems Work” below.)
Why Is Storing Solar Energy Important?
Storing solar energy gives you more control of your resources and your electric bills. It puts your own needs first and uses expensive electricity from the grid as a last resort. With solar power storage systems, the energy generated by your PV panels makes a bee-line to your battery — and only goes back to the grid when your battery is fully charged. Likewise, the only time you’ll need to draw electricity from the grid is when your battery is on empty.
PV panels regularly produce more electricity than can be used. Unless the PVs are paired with solar batteries, this excess is delivered back to the grid — it’s “use it or lose it.” The same goes for backup storage. If your battery isn’t wired for this, that excess solar energy is sent back to the grid. Oftentimes, the more advanced solar plus storage systems provide cost savings in the long run.
Uses of Solar Plus Storage
Solar batteries let you make the most of your own renewable resources. During the evening hours and on cloudy days, a solar plus storage system lets you power your home with clean solar energy generated onsite. As part of smart connected system, they also provide backup power during power outages.
When might you use solar + storage?
- At night and on cloudy days — When your solar panels aren’t able to generate energy from the sun, your system can draw from your battery rather than from the grid.
- During peak demand hours — When electricity is more expensive and the grid is stretched, you can use the stored energy from your battery rather than racking up kWh at the top rates.
- During power outages — If electricity is cut due to extreme weather or pressure on the grid, solar battery systems wired for backup power make use of your stored solar energy for free.
Other Benefits of Solar Storage
Solar storage systems offer other benefits and opportunities, you to:
- Use time-of-use (TOU) rate plans to your advantage – by using your own stored energy and avoiding the peak demand rates
- Protect yourself from future changes to electric rate structures
- Create new business opportunities with solar + storage projects
- Take advantage of solar tax credits, incentives and policy opportunities
- Cut your carbon footprint — by using your stored solar for backup power, rather than a dirty diesel generator. (You’ll also cut down on noise pollution as well.)
How Do Solar Plus Storage Systems Work
Once you learn how solar PV panels and solar batteries work, it’s easy to understand how solar-plus-storage systems work as a whole.
Solar PV panels work by capturing energy from the sun. When this energy is passed through an inverter, it’s converted into a usable form of electricity to meet your immediate needs. Any leftover solar energy will be sent back to the utility grid (unless you solar battery storage).
Solar batteries work by storing the solar energy generated by your PV panels. When your PV panels generate more electricity than you need, the excess charges the battery. When the panels are at rest (like at night or on cloudy days), you can automatically draw from the battery to use your own solar power rather than paying the electric company.
What makes up a solar plus storage system? Solar PV panels, a solar battery and an inverter (for converting DC electricity into usable AC power for your home) are the main components. Some solar batteries come with their own integrated inverter, while others are sold separately. The solar inverter, or PV inverter, is the most expensive component of a solar energy storage system.
What type of batteries are used for solar? Lithium-ion batteries — the battery technology used in laptops and electric cars — are the industry standard for connected solar plus storage systems, whereas lead-acid batteries are mainly used for off-the-grid solar. Although lead acid batteries are cheaper upfront, lithium-ion ones are far more energy-efficient, have greater storage capacity, and are longer lasting. Cost analyses show they also have a lower lifetime cost due to their longevity.
How long can solar energy be stored? That depends on several factors, including the capacity and power rating of your solar battery and whether you’re connected to the electric grid. Also, households come in different shapes and sizes and consume different amounts of energy.
How Much Does Solar Storage Cost?
The price of a solar plus storage system depends on several factors — such as the cost of inverters, batteries, and the storage capacity. Much of it comes down to your goals and preferences. How much energy do you want to use each day and how many MWh of storage do you think you’ll need?
Considering the upfront cost of a solar battery storage system, do the long-term benefits outweigh the one-time costs? In most cases, yes. Again, there are several factors to consider.
So how much does a solar battery storage system cost? Here are some solar storage cost estimates from EnergySage to help you estimate, based on your particular needs. This guide on Solar Storage Costs breaks down the costs further with examples of specific batteries.
When doing a cost analysis, don’t forget to factor in solar tax credits, incentives and rebates to offset your upfront costs. When paired with a PV system, solar batteries qualify for the 26% federal solar tax credit. Some states have additional solar battery incentives, too.
How to Reduce the Cost of a Solar-Plus-Storage System?
More and more, renewable energy developers are pairing solar power systems with battery storage in their projects. This co-location strategy is catching on at both the commercial and residential levels as more homeowners and building owners take advantage of opportunities. As the deployment of solar plus storage becomes more widespread, it helps reduce all the associated costs of materials and installation.
On the bright side: as more and more homeowners convert to solar energy and electric vehicles, this also correlates to an increase in the demand for solar plus storage systems — which in turn helps to decrease the cost of the batteries.
Why Solar Plus Storage Systems Are The Future
Solar plus storage systems will be a leading solution for clean energy in the future. And projections expect them to become increasingly cost-effective over time.
As electricity rates climb, more and more homeowners are installing solar energy storage to save their mid-day production — to use in the early evening to avoid paying peak demand rates from the electric grid. Building owners and commercial developers are following suit.
By installing more energy storage technologies like solar batteries, electric utilities and grid operators can more easily manage the flow of electricity from renewable resources. In the long run, according to Energy Sage, this means more renewable energy resources integrated into our nation’s electricity mix — including home solar plus storage systems.
According to the SEIA, there are over 100,000 MW of utility scale solar projects currently in operation, or under development. Due to sustainability targets, continued declines in the cost of solar, and the spread of solar-plus-storage, utility scale solar capacity is projected to continue to grow even further.
What does the future hold? According to the SEIA, the solar market is expected to double in size by 2023, becoming a $4.5 billion market by that time. (source: Energy Sage) Reductions in solar technology costs, as well as co-location with increasingly cheaper solar energy storage, is set to boost solar growth in the later part of the next decade.
How Lumin’s Smart Panel is Changing the Energy Storage Game
Smart technologies are giving solar storage systems even more run for their money. Products like the Smart Electrical Panel by Lumin enable homes with solar plus storage to operate even more efficiently with automated control. When paired with battery storage, the Lumin platform provides extra energy security and protection to the connected circuits — so you can access whatever power you need during a grid outage without damaging the battery or depleting it too quickly.
A system with Whole Home Battery Backup provides the most protection, especially in an extended power outage. The combination of solar plus storage is a powerful energy resilience strategy — when the grid is down, a solar battery can continuously recharge, drawing power from the sun.
With Lumin’s smart technology, you can optimize your solar battery storage even further. Solar storage with energy management allows you to back up the whole house and to take control with responsive technology — to ensure your power demand never exceeds the solar energy storage system’s limit.
For more information, see:
Storage Cost Benchmark: Q1 2020 / National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Solar-Plus-Storage 101 / U.S. Department of Energy