Solar power is currently installed in 850,000 homes in the UK, and interest is growing as consumers look for ways to alleviate the ever growing pressure on their wallets, and the Government strives to meet challenging emissions targets. Before making the switch however, a solid understanding of the current options and considerations is crucial. 

Importantly, consumers need to understand their new relationship with the grid. The Government cancelling the export tariff (which allowed a small amount of remuneration for surplus daily power exported to the grid) was met with heavy criticism. However, with updated legislation being being drawn up as we speak, and the storage of energy generated by renewable sources becoming ever more efficient and economical, solar energy could still be a great option. 

Battery storage for solar panels works by diverting electricity to charge the batteries when the system detects that you are using less energy than you are generating. This will continue until either the batteries are full, or you start using more electricity. 

Two main options exist, each with their own set of pros and cons: A infographic explaining how solar power works

  • Lead-Acid batteries are widely considered the more economical choice; an older invention and slightly less efficient, the reliability and mature recycling network make these the first choice for most critical infrastructure such as mobile phone towers and hospitals.
  • The Lithium-Ion battery is evolving and advancing at an impressive pace, and its 8,000 charge/discharge cycle compared to the Lead-Acid’s 4,000 limit, alongside greater storage, are a major draw. The same units are used in phones, where attempts to push the limits of the technology ever further has problems, including in some instances fires, which has inevitably attracted negative media attention. Thankfully, when scaled up to serve a property, the proper ventilation and cooling required can be adequately provided for, negating this issue. Recycling is still limited, however the use of Lithium-Ion units in electric cars will force infrastructure to develop as fast as the technology itself.

Choosing an appropriately sized battery for your property is key. While a battery that is too large is uneconomical, a battery that is too small will not charge at the same rate power is collected, wasting energy and providing inadequate power when no sunlight is available. 

Monitoring performance can be helpful in improving efficiency, and better systems come with functionality that allows the customer to monitor daily and long term performance.  Further, when maintenance or replacement is needed, the situation can be pre-empted by the system, further improving the overall efficiency of the solution. 

One common misconception though, is that battery storage always provides complete protection from power cuts. Consideration should be given to this at design stage: most systems will cut power to protect any workers on the line, but options are available, such as our Powervault, which will allow a panel to be installed with a plug socket connected directly to the batteries, allowing a fridge and some lights, for example, to remain functional.

Finally, the location of the storage system is also important: the cell needs to be accessible for maintenance and future replacement. A 4kWh battery system costs around £3,000, so it is worth providing for proper maintenance to help it last and perform to its fullest potential. 

The benefits of producing and storing your own power with a properly managed system are substantial – but the result for the country and the environment is huge.

For more information about Solar power please visit https://www.isoenergy.co.uk

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