Solar Batteries: Are They Worth It?

 

There is a lot of discussion this year around the benefits of installing a battery device to household solar panel systems. In essence they are a great idea, storing energy to save the environment as well as household costs and excess electricity. But is the investment worthwhile at this point in time, when the system is still in its infancy?

Let’s explore.

Experts predicted that the number of solar battery systems installed in 2017 would triple that of previous years and will continue to increase in the future. This is because of the rising costs of electricity to homes in Australia, as well as the security and reliability of having power in times of need (like when state-wide systems shut down). Home owners are taking every opportunity to save money and power and so they should. It is an investment in the home, money and the future that will definitely be worthwhile, in time.

Solar panels are a long-term investment; it takes a few years before home owners have earned back in savings what the initial cost was and this will be the same for the battery systems they have installed. When installing a new system with a battery, at approximately $20,000, it can take three years or more to see even the smallest of return. But it is worth it.

Currently, the storage price for energy in battery systems is $750-$800 per kilowatt hour, yet it needs to be around $200-$300 per kilowatt hour to see any benefit for the homeowner and we are a long way from that happening.

For now, experts are simply trying to figure out if the battery systems (and their warranties) will last long enough for home owners to see a significant return on investment, particularly as to whether or not the system will have paid for itself by then.

After exploring the benefits around the country, it appears that Perth has the best payback time for the installation of a new solar system with a battery. Using electricity and installations prices as criteria, it would take approximately 7.6 years to have the system pay for itself.

In particular, for those living in South Australia (SA) the payback time is 8.4 years; not the worst but considering the significantly high energy prices they are currently facing, a new system installation would definitely be worth it. Warrick Johnson, of Sunwiz, warns, that for those home owners in SA who already have solar systems and are considering adding a battery system, the battery warranty may expire before you see significant returns. The benefits are mostly on new installations in that state.

For the most benefit, it seems that that the battery installations are going to provide a return on investment if they are a new installation with solar panels, rather than as an addition to an existing solar panel system. If it is about the money, then this needs to be weighed up.

However, for those people who want peace of mind when electricity prices rise, or when the statewide electricity system fails (as it often does during heat waves), installing a battery-solar system (or adding a battery to your existing one) can certainly help. Knowing that you can store your own energy to have when the grid shuts down is worthwhile, being independent of the government’s restrictions on when you can have access to power.

If you are considering a battery solar system, do your research and costings. Be diligent, and decide if the investment is worth the peace of mind.

For many, it will be. But if you are looking to save money then the upfront costs that you outlay may not be returned to you as quickly as you would like. It all depends on what is most important to your family.

 

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.
 

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