How do solar batteries work? Your guide to solar battery storage
Solar battery storage starts with solar energy, which is something we have a lot of here in our sunny state. More WA homes than ever have a solar PV system – and the number of homes with a solar battery system as an added component of their home solar PV system is likely to grow as the technology advances and solar battery costs become more affordable.
How do batteries work with solar panels?
Without solar battery storage, any excess electricity your solar panels produce during the day is exported back into the grid or electricity network. . When this happens, you may be eligible to receive a credit, otherwise known as a feed-in tariff under DEBS (the Distributed Energy Buyback Scheme), for the electricity you export which will appear on your next electricity bill which will reduce the amount due.
If you decide to invest in a solar battery system as part of your home solar, your solar panels will capture solar energy during the day when the sun is shining, and your solar inverter will produce electricity as usual.
When your solar PV system produces more electricity than you’re using at home excess electricity can be stored as energy in your solar battery and you can then draw on that stored energy in your solar battery to help power your home when your solar panels aren’t generating electricity, such overnight or on cloudy days.
In most cases, even if you have a solar battery your home solar will still be connected to the electricity grid, allowing your home to continue to receive electricity if your solar panels aren’t producing enough to meet your energy demands.
Charging solar batteries during the day
When you have solar panels on your roof and a solar battery, charging solar batteries is a simple process as your system will handle all of the hard work for you.
- The sun shines on your solar panels.
- Your solar panels turn this solar energy into electricity. The solar energy travels as direct current (DC electricity) through your solar inverter so it can be converted into alternating current (AC electricity) which is what your appliances use.
- Your switchboard directs the AC electricity generated by your solar panels to where it’s needed. First, it will power the appliances in your home as needed, then any excess electricity is sent to the battery inverter.
- Charging solar batteries happens when your solar battery stores that excess electricity. This works in a similar way to how your mobile phone battery or electric vehicle stores electrical charge – only with solar batteries you don’t need to plug anything in.
- Your solar battery has an inverter which can then turn that stored energy into AC electricity for you to use when the sun goes down or your solar panels aren't generating enough electricity.
- Once your solar battery’s stored energy has been depleted, you would then draw grid power again until your solar panels are producing electricity again on the next sunny day.
Solar battery storage isn’t suitable for everyone
A solar battery system won’t always be compatible with your solar PV system, depending on how old your home solar system is and whether it was designed for a battery connection.
Solar battery storage is generally only suitable if you a solar PV system which is big enough to meet your household solar needs and generate enough solar power that there is excess electricity to be stored.
Solar battery cost is another factor which can be a barrier for many people considering a solar battery system. Just as cheap solar panels could be worth avoiding, watch out for any solar battery deals which seem too good to be true.
Shop around and always be wary of any solar supplier who promises you will have no electricity bill with solar panels or a solar battery system. Having a battery system to store your excess solar energy could help you save on electricity costs, but you’ll likely still need to draw electricity from the grid and pay the daily supply charge for your connection to the network.
The potential benefits of home energy storage
While battery power isn’t for everyone, there are certainly some potential benefits to investing in solar battery storage.
With a solar battery system, you could become more energy independent and self-consume more of the renewable energy that your solar PV system generates. This means you could reduce the amount of grid electricity you need to buy, which could help you maximise and enjoy the benefits of your solar power.
On a larger scale, battery storage in the grid can help balance short-term power fluctuations and manage peak demand (when everyone needs a lot of electricity at the same time, such as on really hot days).
Home energy storage solutions in the grid could also have a positive impact on the ability of the grid to support more integration of renewable energy – which have a range of benefits for the system as a whole.
Solar battery systems for WA homes and businesses
Solar batteries for individual homes and businesses are not used widely across WA yet but there are signs these could become more popular. As the technology becomes more accessible, it’s expected that solar battery costs will become more affordable and even more solar-savvy homes and businesses may invest in them.
Solar batteries are just one optional component of a solar PV system, but you can learn more about how a solar PV system works and other things you should be aware of before shopping for solar in our ultimate solar guide.