Energy Watch: Solar Power and Grid-Connected Batteries

Solar Power and Grid-Connected Batteries

Recent announcements from the Tesla Electric Car Corporation signal a turning point in Renewable Energy’s onward march.  Tesla have announced a Grid-Connected Battery Solution – “The Powerwall” – available (initially in the USA only) at unbelievable crazy low prices.  Price Competition from other battery manufacturers is heating up and I expect Batteries with Solar to make economic sense for almost all Homes and Businesses within 5 years … possibly just 1 or 2 …

By making low-cost Solar Electricity available at all times of the day, Battery Storage will support current trends towards:

  • Installing Solar Power (and Wind Turbines)
  • Going All-Electric and Getting Off Gas (Mains Electricity is already cheaper than Mains or Bottle Gas and Solar Electricity is even cheaper).
  • Disconnecting from the Mains Grid completely.

So I urge Householders and Business Owners to consider how batteries (charged by Solar or Wind) will fit into their overall energy budget in future regardless of whether they install Solar or Batteries now … When appliances like Cooktops, Heaters and Hot Water Services fail, choosing to get off gas by replacing them with the most energy-efficient all-electric options will position you to take advantage of Batteries in an All-Electric Future.

If you already have solar power, note that many of the existing Feed-in Tariffs will no longer apply after the end of 2016.  Instead of receiving a guaranteed minimum of 6c/kWh or 25c/kWh for exported solar power, you might receive NOTHING !!!  At the right price, it will make sense to add batteries to capture that power at lunchtime for use at dinnertime …

The good news is that it will be possible (at the very least) to reuse your existing Panels … and probably your Inverter.

Technical Note: A Solar Power System consists of the Panels (which convert light into Electricity) and one (or more) Solar Inverter(s) that convert the Direct Current (DC) from the Panels into the Alternating Current (AC) that matches power from the Mains Grid.

Retrofitting batteries onto any grid-connected solar inverter can be done by “AC Coupling” a new device – a Battery Inverter-Charger – that converts the AC Output of the Solar Inverter back to DC to charge the batteries. But note that if you intend to disconnect and go Off-Grid completely, you are likely to need to replace your inverter as AC Coupling does not always allow complete battery charging unless the Solar Inverter and Battery Inverter-Charger have been specifically designed to work together.

If you are planning to install solar power in the near future, you have an opportunity to purchase equipment now that is specifically designed to give you the easiest and lowest cost pathway to add batteries later … and if desired the option to disconnect and go Off-Grid completely …

The Energy Market just gets more and more interesting …

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First Published in The Meredith News (June 2015)