Home Batteries Solve the Solar Energy Glitch

by Anna Gretz
December 28, 2015
Home Battery

Solar energy has one major issue, and it is pretty obvious: The sun is not always shining.

Depending on where you live, the sun checks out at a certain time in the early evening, and shows up hours later, in the early morning, taking all of its energy with it. This leaves anyone relying on solar power without electricity. To make it worse, these are the hours when we need electricity the most. So yeah. Solar energy poses a pretty big problem. But there is also a really simple solution.

Home batteries are the simplest and best way to solve the solar energy glitch -- you know, the whole sun-going-down thing. Experts from the fields of science, engineering, technology, and sustainability are all coming to the same conclusion: energy storage in the form of home batteries are the best way to launch residential use of renewable energy into the future.

Kevin Smith: Integrating Solar with Energy Storage

Kevin Smith, the owner of SolarReserve, is all too familiar with the difficulties with solar power. Since 2008, SolarReserve has been developing solar power projects with the potential to deliver clean energy on a massive scale. They had to immediately confront solar’s biggest flaw: solar energy isn’t constant, and our need for electricity is.

“The issue with solar traditionally is that it is an intermittent power source - you can only produce electricity when the sun is shining,” says Smith.

That’s why Smith made sure that SolarReserve’s solar energy projects integrated energy storage into every installation. With the global demand for renewable energy growing exponentially, Smith knew that the best investment into the future of solar would be to focus on storage, and effectively solving the glitch of intermittent solar energy. Today, SolarReserve is one of the leading global developers of solar power projects.

Every household generating solar power through solar panels faces the same difficulties as SolarReserve, and can solve them in the exact same way using energy storage in the form of home batteries. Home batteries store the energy generated by solar power, and make it available whenever you need it. With a home battery, your power stays up when the sun goes down. With home battery energy storage, your constant need for electricity can be met with renewable energy sources like solar power. Kevin Smith knows it, and now, so do you.

Elon Musk: Using Home Batteries to Maintain the Value of Solar Power

It’s time for households with rooftop solar to take their energy systems to the next level with home batteries. They’ll have to if they want to protect the value of the energy generated from their solar panels, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Tesla Motors recently unveiled a new home battery model called Powerwall, that charges using electricity generated from solar panels. According to Musk, every home with solar panels needs a home battery.

“Without a home battery, excess solar energy is often sold to the power company and purchased back in the evening [at a higher price],” Musk argues “The mismatch adds demand on power plants and increases carbon emissions.”

If this sounds like a lose-lose situation, that’s because it is. Houses with solar who don’t also have energy storage like home batteries have no way to use the excess electricity generated during the day when the sun is shining and solar energy is in abundance. When households have solar energy they can’t use, it goes back into the power grid. often, power companies pay households for giving back the extra power generated by solar, but not as much as they charge for the same amount of electricity later in the day, when people actually need it. Without a home battery, solar customers end up paying extra for the electricity they generated themselves, just like paying the power company to store the energy for them so they can use it later. Instead of giving more money to the power companies, why not just store it yourself? With a home battery, solar households have this opportunity.

Instead of selling electricity back to the grid, home battery owners get to keep their energy, and use it whenever they need it. This eases the workload of power plants, decreasing carbon emissions, and saves money for households with solar at the same time. Taking this into consideration, it’s hard to argue against Elon Musk when he says that all solar panel owners need a home battery. Without a home battery to store excess electricity, solar owners continue to throw money, and energy, at the power companies. Home batteries keep electricity and money in the hands of the consumer.

Sam Wilkinson: Distributing Power Differently

According to Sam Wilkinson, solar storage and home batteries are about to completely revolutionize the way electricity is generated and distributed around the world. Wilkinson is the Associate Director of Solar Supply Chain and Energy Storage at IHS, a company that guides businesses and governments in making good decisions in regards to a wide range of technological considerations, including solar energy and energy storage. Recently, Wilkinson has been researching the solar photovoltaic market, and analyzing the future of energy distribution, and solar energy storage. In his recent research, Wilkinson has seen a striking trend when it comes to power.

“We are moving away from very large conventional power stations that produce electricity which is sent through the grid to consumers, to a system where power is produced in a much more distributed way,” says Wilkinson. Historically, electricity has been generated by huge power stations, and distributed to consumers through a huge, often vulnerable, power grid. According to Wilkinson, that system isn’t here to stay. More and more households are generating their own power through solar panels, meaning that electricity generation isn’t centered around one major power plant, but from a multitude of smaller, solar stations (or homes). But the focus isn’t just on distributed power generation, but also on storage as well.

“So storage is obviously a major focus,” Wilkinson adds, “because it allows you to compensate for and correct for a lot of that fluctuating generation that comes from renewables.” Basically Sam Wilkinson is echoing the same point made by Tesla’s Elon Musk, and SolarReserve’s Kevin Smith: solar energy isn’t constant, but it can be when stored in home batteries. Energy storage like home batteries takes the same clean, free power generated by solar panels, and stores it in a unit in your home, so it doesn’t get fed back into the grid. This makes it available all the time, not only when solar panels are generating electricity. Even when the sun goes down, solar energy can still provide power to your household. It’s like your own personal sun in a bottle… except it’s a battery.

Nick Heyward: Batteries That Give the Grid a Break

Speaking of revolutionizing the energy market, Nick Heyward has just made a three-tennis-court-sized contribution. Heyward manages Smarter Network Storage, a power plant in Leighton Buzzard, UK, that is made up of 50,000 batteries. Heyward’s batteries can store enough power to power over a thousand UK homes during average electricity demand. Heyward built this energy fortress because he saw how much the grid was struggling to keep up with modern electrical demand. The electrical grid is always balancing supply and demand, and as more renewable energy sources like solar panels join in, that balance becomes even more complicated.

“One solution could be to add capacity to the existing grid, but that could be very expensive and disruptive,” says Heyward. “And then you have the problem of energy curtailment - where wind and solar plants are switched off when there isn’t much demand.” Heyward knows this is wasteful, so he built his energy storage system to keep the extra power from renewable energy that is getting fed into the grid.

Again, Heyward’s solution does on a grid-sized scope what home batteries can do in individual households. It’s all a matter of electricity supply and demand. Solar panels supply enough electricity to meet the needs of each home, but may not have it available exactly when you need it. Home batteries solve that problem by storing the electricity generated by solar panels and making it available all the time, day or night. As solar energy becomes a more and more commonly used source of energy, home batteries are going to become a household standard.

Experts from across the board are all coming up with the same answer to the question of solar power inconsistency. Without energy storage, renewable energy sources are great, but only available periodically. With home batteries, the solar energy intermittency problem is no longer an issue. You don’t have to rely on fossil fuels to get constant, reliable power (and soon, you won’t even be able to.)

By using energy storage technology like home batteries, your home will have all the power your need, when you need it.