Battery Storage Decisions

Should I Invest in Battery Storage

With government incentives reducing and the removal of key premium-feed-in-tariffs, customers are now looking at how best to retain their generated energy and maximise their substantial investment.  Battery technology has come a long way and advancements are now seeing the price of batteries at an affordable and commercially viable level.  As the battery storage market continues to grow, it is important to ensure you select he right solution for you from a trusted and established brand who can support your future needs.

We have explored common questions raised by our customers in making their decision to invest in battery solutions.  If you’re still unsure after reading them, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Residential Energy Advisers who will be able to assist you with further queries.

I have an existing Solar system, should I wait or invest in batteries now?

Australia leads the world on solar uptake on a per capita rooftop (residential). Our sunlight patterns are suited for PV solar, and the battery storage market is ready now to provide commercially feasible solutions.  The choice to invest in batteries is obviously an individual one, but Australia is recognised as one of the most attractive and ready market places to take advantage of the storage options now.

Some customers want to use as little grid supplied energy as possible for environmentally conscious reasons.  For others, payback on investment is important and feeding excess energy back into the grid offers a low return, commonly between 6 to 8 cents nationally.  It therefore may make economic sense to store the excess energy your system produces and self-consume at a later period. The cost of purchasing from the grid is usually 4 to 5 times more expensive than the return received from exporting to the grid – presenting a good case for energy storage.  So it has never been a better time to install a Battery Storage Solution than now!

What is Battery Storage and how does it relate to my solar system?

Put simply, Battery Storage is the use of batteries to store energy for later use when it is required.  For residential use, batteries typically receive the energy from a PV solar system – i.e. the excess electricity generated that is not being consumed by the household. Once the batteries are full the excess energy being generated (not being consumed by the household) will then flow back into the grid.

There are smart and innovative battery storage systems that have the capacity to receive energy from the grid as well as from PV systems. This allows the system owner to potentially charge from the grid at period of low costs (if available) and consume or export this stored energy back to the grid during periods when grid energy is more expensive.  Sourcing and storing energy from solar PV or from the grid during off-peak tariff times and consuming this energy during peak tariff periods is a fundamental benefit of battery storage. These circumstances can however depend on the (1) tariff plans and arrangements the householder may have with the electricity retailer and (2) of course the capabilities of the battery system.  Not all systems can enable storage from the grid as well as from PV solar.

What size battery storage solution should I buy?

Choosing the right system size will depend on many factors: your energy consumption levels and patterns, your PV solar system capacity, your objective and expectations and, amongst other factors, your budget!

So there is no one solution for all, but a sensible approach may be to invest in a scalable system that allows you to monitor your usage closely and add battery capacity at a later stage if required. This avoids the mistake of over capitalising – which could blow out your return on investment and system payback unnecessarily for many years.  There are systems that are designed for this purpose, which enable initial and expandable battery packs in the 5kWh range with minimal installation costs when expanding the system.

How do I monitor the system performance and functionality of the battery system?

There is a common saying that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.  That’s precisely true with your solar system.  Understanding how your system is performing and determining if it’s achieving your energy goals is a very important element.

Solar monitoring is essential and should be considered a MUST in any Battery Management System (BMS) solution.  Most battery storage systems offer web based monitoring applications, but not all solar grid tied inverters off this feature with a user-friendly application.  A quality monitoring system will provide a COMPLETE picture for its owner.  This includes the basics providing live and historic monitoring of the household’s generation, storing and consumption of energy.

More advanced systems will provide live data of the grids energy characteristics too – such as incoming voltage levels. This feature has the capability of correcting ‘poor’ electricity (i.e. balancing the voltage levels of the incoming grid power) having the benefits of extending the life of appliances and improving their consumption efficiency.

Are all Battery warranties the same?

Most battery suppliers in the market today offer a warranty between 4 to 10 years. However, close attention should be paid to differing cycle coverage offered and how this affects the warranty period.  Usually the warranty will expire when either the time is reached or the number of cycles detailed in the fair usage is reached – whichever is sooner.  So there are some key points to consider.

Cycle DefinitionPay attention to the “cycle” definition. Superior warranties will recognise a cycle as a full cycle, i.e. a complete charge and discharge of the battery, not a partial one.  For instance, a battery may be charged and discharged by 18% on five occasions during one day.  With a Depth of Discharge of 90% (DOD), superior warranties will recognise this as one full cycle, whereas inferior warranties may attempt to classify this as multiple cycles.  This may have an impact on the length and extent of the warranty provided.

Conditional Clauses – Other considerations include the reduction of warranty periods if certain conditions are not met.  This may include factors such as operating environment, maintenance schedules, and software upgrades so you will need to determine if and how these may impact your warranty.  These conditional clauses are often overlooked by customers, however they could give the seller and/or manufacturer the claim to downsize or disown a warranty claim.

What does it mean by a system that is battery ready?

If you currently have a solar system installed, a retrofitted battery solution may be the answer but you need to consider a few key factors.  If your system is more than 5 years old, it is probably not battery ready and therefore you can either choose to have it replaced with a battery ready hybrid inverter, or install a Battery Management System (BMS) that contains its own separate inverter (therefore having two inverters within the PV and BMS).

Installing a separate BMS that contains an additional inverter alongside the existing PV system inverter presents two likely negatives.  Firstly, the additional inverter requires an extra energy conversion process – making the entire system relatively less efficient. Secondly, by not replacing the existing PV inverter (which is probably out of warranty if older than 5 years) with a dedicated Hybrid Inverter exposes the whole system to potential downtime if the aging inverter reaches its end of life.

So, in short, when retrofitting existing PV systems with a new BMS it is often more efficient and sensible to install a BMS that uses one Hybrid inverter and ideally includes the replacement and upgrading of the old inverter unit.

 

Call one of our friendly staff who will assist finding the right solution for you.  Call 1300 786 769