Storing Surplus Energy with Solar Batteries

Solar energy is critical to transitioning toward a more sustainable future, a more resilient energy grid, and saving money on utility bills. Coupling solar panels with solar panel battery storage technologies ensures that energy is available when you need it—day or night—and offers other benefits. Don’t just produce your energy and lose it when the sun sets. Store it! Let’s explore some of the reasons why solar battery storage is a smart idea.

What are Solar Batteries?

Solar batteries store energy generated by solar panels during sunlight hours. The stored solar energy is then available when solar energy production is low but demand is high — typically in the morning or evening when the sun is not out.

Solar batteries offer significant benefits, whether as an addition or an alternative to sending solar energy back into the larger power grid. They can help make your household energy-independent during power outages, providing security and control over your energy usage.

Solar Battery Types

Solar battery technology is continuously improving. There are currently four main types of batteries:

Lead-acid batteries were the go-to solar battery, but improved technology has made them a less common choice in newer solar installations. Lead-acid batteries have a low energy density and don’t hold much energy per kilogram of weight. However, they are reliable and cost-effective, making them a good choice for automotive and industrial energy storage.

Lithium-ion (Li) batteries are newer than lead-acid batteries. They have a high energy density and can store a lot of energy in a small amount of mass. They are smaller, lighter, and more efficient than other solar storage batteries. They are more expensive than lead-acid batteries but hold more energy before recharging.

Nickel-cadmium batteries are prized for their high durability, ability to function at extreme temperatures, and low maintenance, which make them favorites for use in airline and industrial applications. Cadmium is a toxic element that must be disposed of properly to avoid negatively impacting human health and the environment.

Flow batteries are another newer form of solar storage. They are safe, stable, and quickly refilled, making them suitable for extended hours of operation. Their size makes them optimal for use in large-scale utility energy storage projects. Current variations have significant upfront costs. Unlike nickel-cadmium batteries, flow batteries are non-toxic.

What Happens to Surplus Solar Energy?

Grid storage is when the excess energy generated by your solar panel system flows to the shared power grid operated by your utility company. When you contribute to grid storage your utility company may provide energy credits on your monthly bill via net metering. Net metering measures the electricity your home solar system sends to your utility and the electricity you use from your utility.

Onsite storage via solar batteries effectively captures solar energy and offers many benefits, including: 

  • Cost-savings:  Since solar power batteries store energy made by your solar panel system, they reduce the amount of electricity you’ll need to purchase from your local utility company. If your utility offers net metering, you may get further savings.
  • Energy Independence: Solar batteries allow homeowners to minimize their reliance on overburdened public-utility energy grids vulnerable to disruption.
  • Backup Power: Backup solar battery systems offer a continuous power supply during peak demand and utility outages. Solar batteries also make it possible to use the energy produced by your solar system to power your home or charge your electric vehicle outside of daylight hours.
  • Noiseless backup:  Unlike some generators, solar battery power systems won’t annoy you or your neighbors by creating noise pollution.
  • Reduced Environmental Footprint: Solar battery systems minimize fossil fuel usage, as public utilities mostly burn coal and other non-renewable energy sources to generate power.

How Much Do Solar Battery Storage Systems Cost?

Cost varies based on the manufacturer, battery type, storage capacity (measured in kilowatt-hours, kWh), lifespan, and installation complexity.

While solar storage systems can be a significant financial investment, they save money on energy costs during off-peak hours and in communities with favorable net metering policies.

Many cities offer incentives or rebates that can reduce the costs of adding onsite solar storage. You may also qualify for a federal solar tax credit to offset start-up costs.

Answers to Common Questions about Solar Battery Storage

Are solar batteries safe?

Solar batteries are very safe. When issues occur, they are often due to low product quality or incorrect installation.

What are the best solar battery brands?
The best solar battery is the one that fits best with your solar panel system. Tesla and its Powerwall are industry leaders. Sonnen, Enphase, Sunpower, Panasonic, and LG Chem are other top players in the market.

How long do solar batteries last?
Solar battery life depends on the manufacturer, battery type, battery capacity and usage, and maintenance. Manufacturer warranties back most batteries. The lithium-ion batteries that dominate today’s home solar market typically last for ten years with proper care, while most lead-acid batteries have a lifespan of about five years.

How many solar panels are needed?

The number of solar batteries needed depends on the type of battery used, battery storage capacity, solar power system size, and household energy consumption. Households that utilize more energy may require more than one solar battery. An energy audit from your local power provider can accurately assess your unique energy needs.

How are solar batteries maintained?
Solar batteries require regular maintenance to optimize performance and longevity. This includes monitoring battery charge levels, regular installer checks, and potential battery replacement.

Adding solar battery storage to your solar panel system can create a reliable, sustainable, and cost-saving system for years. A  Freedom Solar Power® representative is ready to answer any questions about adding solar battery power to your home solar system.