How Do Solar Batteries Work? A Basic Guide for You

When it comes to extending the power that your solar PV system creates, solar battery systems are the only option available. As technology changes and the cost of adding solar power to homes and businesses become more affordable, more people want to know how solar batteries work. More importantly, people want to know how solar batteries integrate with a solar array, their options for solar batteries, and if they need them. Keep reading as we shed some light on PV systems and solar batteries. 

Solar Battery for Home Usage

Is solar battery storage a must in a solar PV system?

Solar batteries are not a must for a solar PV system. There are three basic types of solar arrays. Those include:

  1. Grid-Tied—The solar array produces energy your home uses, and your home draws energy from the electrical grid when the array cannot create enough energy. An example of when a solar array may not produce enough energy is during the nighttime. Without the sun, the array does not produce power. The home does not need solar batteries, though they are an option.
  2. Off-Grid—The home is not tied to the electrical grid, and all energy used must come from the solar array. A solar battery system is needed to power the home after dark and on low energy production days. Without a solar battery system, the house loses power when the solar array stops working at sunset.
  3. Grid-Tied With Solar Batteries—When you add solar batteries to your solar array, you get to keep more of the energy the array produces. That means you have the safety net of the grid should power requirements exceed the power production of the array. It also means that the battery system stores any excess energy the array produces.

So to answer whether solar batteries are necessary, the answer comes down to your energy goals. If you want to be off-grid, then batteries are required. If you are going to decrease your reliance on the grid, but keep it as a safety net, then solar batteries can help, but they are not necessary. On the other hand, if you want to offset grid-produced electricity by going solar, and your goal is to use as much solar energy as possible, solar batteries are a huge plus. 

The benefits of using solar batteries in your solar power system

Solar batteries offer several benefits to the already positive list of investing in a solar array. One of those benefits is that solar can increase the value of your home.

Adding solar batteries helps to increase the efficiency of your solar array. That includes increasing your home's energy independence. Because the solar batteries allow for the storage of excess energy produced by the array, you use less energy from the grid. That means lower power bills and a smaller carbon footprint. The creation of grid-based electricity often involves burning coal or other fossil fuels, which increases greenhouse emissions. Solar energy does not increase greenhouse emissions and is green energy. By adding batteries, you effectively reduce the greenhouse emission that would produce grid electricity to power your home. You also decrease the demand for fossil fuel electricity within your community, state, and even on the national level. An alternative to battery backup, especially if the grid goes down, is a generator. Batteries are a much quieter way to power your home at night. 

Adding solar batteries benefits homes and businesses by:

  1.  Reducing the home or business' carbon footprint—When you use less energy produced by burning fossil fuel, you reduce the amount of carbon your home needs to run. Suppose your solar array feeds green solar energy back into the grid. In that case, you are helping to decrease the amount of fossil fuel electricity your utility company must purchase, and that helps to reduce the carbon footprint of your community. 
  2. Increasing the energy independence from the utility company—By using as much of the energy that your solar array process, your dependency on your local utility company decreases. You also become less vulnerable when the local grid goes down. 
  3. Decreases in monthly utility bills for electrical usage. You pay less money to the local utility company when using the energy that the solar array creates. In addition, batteries help you store excess energy, so you use less power from the grid. 
  4. Provides a quieter energy backup when the grid fails or when the solar array is not producing energy. An alternative to nighttime energy production when the grid is down is a gas-powered generator, which is very loud. Batteries provide a quiet, noiseless supply of energy until the solar array begins to make energy. 

How do solar batteries work? (Charging & discharging)

The process of creating electricity begins with the solar panel. When sunlight, a beam of light, strikes the solar panel, it causes an atomic reaction within the panel that becomes Direct Current—DC. Part of the solar array is a component called a solar regulator. The job of the solar regulator is to transfer energy produced in the panel to the batteries. It, in short, regulates the flow of power between the panel and batteries so that the batteries charge without being damaged by incoming energy.

NOTE: Homes run on AC (alternate current), but the energy produced by a solar array and stored in solar batteries is DC. The inverter must change the electricity from DC to AC before it sends the electricity to the home. 

Solar Batteries 

As you research solar batteries, you will come across the term deep cycle solar batteries. The term "deep cycle" means that the energy in the battery discharges slowly. A battery in a car is just the opposite. It discharges a specific amount of amps in a short period during the starting of the engine. Solar batteries by design are used for thousands of recharging cycles. The rate at which a solar battery discharge occurs is significant because it helps determine the number of solar batteries a home would need. The formula is the number of amps the battery can discharge over a given period of time. Usually, the timeframe is 100 hours. It is also essential that solar batteries not fully discharge as it shortens their lifespan. 

Types of Solar Batteries

There are four main types of solar batteries, which are:

  1. Lithium-Ion—batteries are relatively new to PV systems, and the price for them is still high. They are low maintenance and can handle high energy with fast recharging. 
  2. Lead Acid—One of the least expensive rechargeable batteries for PV. They can handle high specific power but take a long while to recharge. In addition, there is regular maintenance with lead-acid batteries. 
  3. Nickle Based—An excellent all-around option as they hold up well in the widest temperature ranges. Maintenance is necessary but not as frequently as lead acid batteries. If you are going off-grid, this is probably the top choice. 
  4. Flow—are large batteries. It uses an electrolyte liquid and an electrochemical cell to store energy. They can be very expensive. 

Conclusion and Recap 

Regardless of what type of solar battery system you choose, the benefits remain the same. Pairing solar batteries with your solar array allows for a couple of situations. First, you get to use more of the energy the array produces, and secondly, you can design the array to make more energy than you need and then store that energy. 

One big concern that many people have is the decaying nature of the nation's electrical grid. With the recent failure of the electrical grid on a state level in Texas in 2021, more people are looking at solar as a better answer. Globally, weird weather is also a concern, and reducing greenhouse gasses is more critical than ever. Solar gives you more independence in energy usage and more reliability, especially when solar batteries are part of your system design. 

Environmentally, solar batteries can be a significant benefit in the quest to reduce carbon emissions, reduce carbon footprints, and decrease the community's and nation's reliance on fossil fuels to create electricity. Solar battery benefits outweigh the costs and help keep your home or business running efficiently without relying on the grid.

If you are ready to consider how solar energy may benefit your home or business, or if adding solar batteries to your existing solar array will make an improvement, reach out to our team. 

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