Renewable energy, and solar power in particular, has the potential to affect Australia’s electricity industry dramatically. Solar energy produces minimal greenhouse gas emissions and can help Australia reduce its dependency on fossil fuels, setting the country on the path toward a cleaner and more sustainable future.

Budget-conscious electricity customers will be pleased to know that this doesn’t necessarily come at a premium. Many consumers are saving substantially on their power bill thanks to the power of the sun (though it’s still a good idea to compare energy prices each year, so that you have a backup!).

One often overlooked part of a solar energy system is the battery. Being able to store sufficient power to meet your household’s electricity needs is critical, but how do you know which type of battery is right for you? Scroll down to learn more about energy storage systems, the benefits of investing in solar batteries, and a quick rundown of how far the technology has progressed in recent years.

What is solar battery storage and how does it work?

Solar energy storage systems work on the same principle as other batteries. Essentially, they give you an easy way to stockpile electricity, which you can use later as required. This gives you a reliable cache of power to fall back on when conditions are less than ideal for generating solar energy, such as at night or on dark and cloudy days. It’s particularly handy in a blackout!

As the Australian Government’s Your Home initiative explained, there are a few different types of battery energy storage that may be appropriate for your solar system, depending on your budget and energy needs.

  • Cheap and cheerful, lead-acid batteries are the most common forms of storage for renewable electricity systems.
  • Lithium batteries are a more expensive option, though they typically last for much longer than their lead-acid counterparts, which can help offset some of the up-front costs over the long term.
  • Nickel-iron batteries are rarer and less efficient than the aforementioned alternatives, but they boast an incredibly long lifespan.

It’s also possible to use other storage systems such as flow and flywheel batteries in solar systems, but due to the costs involved and the intricacies of the technologies, these are not often used in home setups.

What are the benefits of investing in a battery energy storage system?

As touched on, the main benefit of incorporating battery energy storage into your solar power system is that it provides you with a source of electricity you can use rain or shine. This gives you more self-sustainability and could be a key stepping stone in helping you disconnect from the grid entirely.

While there are some significant costs involved with solar battery storage, prices are gradually coming down as the technology improves and continues to become more readily available. In addition, given the durability of solar batteries (they have a lifespan of at least 10 years with low usage, as noted by Your Home), it’s likely that you could recoup your initial investment over the course of the system’s life.

This is particularly important as cost-reflective tariffs are becoming increasingly common in Australia and the price of electricity creeps up. Solar photovoltaic systems may enable you to save even further. In fact, according to the Climate Council, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems with supplementary batteries may become the most economical source of household electricity in the years to come.

How are advances in technology improving battery efficiency?

Thanks to a global surge in commercial interest in renewable energy and electricity storage solutions, solar batteries are becoming both more affordable and more technologically advanced. Here in Australia, for example, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has developed UltraBattery, an innovative system capable of storing solar power generated by PV cells, at a low cost and a significant lifecycle – comparative to lead-acid batteries.

Australia’s growing interest in the storage and distribution of renewable energy is reflected on a global scale. As the Climate Council explained, a number of major battery manufacturing plants are springing up in the United States, China and other countries around the world.

A quick snapshot of the Tesla Powerwall

US innovation giant Tesla is making waves in the Australian energy industry, with the introduction of its Powerwall. At its core, the Powerwall is simply an in-home solar battery. This isn’t a groundbreaking concept, but where the Tesla solar battery differs from other storage solutions is in its ease of installation and the fact that it requires virtually no maintenance.

How does it work? While your exact setup will depend on your home’s design, the climate of your region and a range of other factors, Tesla explained that a typical installation is comprised of:

  • Solar panels
  • An inverter
  • A battery meter
  • A secondary circuit to provide power to vital appliances

Depending on the model you purchase, the Tesla Powerwall is capable of storing up to seven kilowatt-hours of energy, which is enough to keep most homes juiced up during the evening (although falls short of an entire day’s worth of supply). Of course, the Powerwall is just one example of a solar energy battery. As consumer demand for sustainable electricity continues to rise, we could see more competitors entering the market.

There are many things to consider when figuring out how you should go about switching energy providers, so don’t be afraid to investigate your options further to make an even more informed decision when it comes to your household’s power.