More households and businesses leverage the falling solar energy prices to reduce the cost of energy in their properties. Solar panel systems also free you from reliance on the grid especially with increasing costs and disruptions. Your solar panel system is a long-term investment which also increases the value of your home.
But there’s one downside with solar energy as with all renewables; variability. When the sun isn’t shining, your photovoltaic panels can’t generate electricity. Solar energy storage systems have emerged as a solution to the intermittency problem with solar.
These technologies are still new and homeowners have many questions about them. This post answers one of the most common questions; “is it possible to add storage to an existing solar system?”
Overview of Solar Energy Storage
In an ordinary solar power system, your solar panels harness sun energy and convert it into DC electricity. This is the main electricity generation process. The inverter converts that power into AC electricity which you can use with appliances or lighting.
However, when the solar panels generate more electricity than you can consume, all of it goes to waste. Later, you might need that energy at night when there’s no electricity generation. If there was a way to store the excess electricity, it would help you cut reliance on the grid electricity. This is where solar energy storage comes in handy.
The biggest trend in renewables is energy storage systems (ESS). Solar energy batteries have been around for a long time but it’s only recently that the products have improved in capacity and efficiency. With advanced technology, the prices of energy storage solutions continue to fall. There are different solar energy batteries, including lead-gel, lead-acid, and lithium-ion batteries.
Li-Ion batteries are the most popular in solar energy systems because of their longevity (15 to 20 years), higher cycle stability, and a high discharge depth (DoD). With an efficient solar energy storage system, you can use more clean and affordable energy in your home.
The storage system allows you to go fully off-grid and you get more value from the solar panels. This boosts energy efficiency in your home and helps conserve the environment by reducing reliance on fossil fuel generated electricity.
Adding Storage to an Existing Solar Panel System
If you had installed a solar panel system without inadequate or no storage, an upgrade is overdue. But the question is whether to overhaul the entire system or add a storage solution to the existing solar panel system.
There are some factors that affect this retrofit project.
For a Storage Ready Solar System
If you have a storage ready solar panel system, this means you have an inverter in place. It’s easier for your solar installer to integrate solar batteries into the existing system. The retrofit is simpler and less expensive.
You don’t need to purchase a lot of materials to set up your solar energy storage. Have a solar contractor assess your existing solar power installation to determine if it’s storage ready or not. The contractor also provides a quote for the design and installation of the solar system.
For a Grid-Tied Solar System
Hybrid solar systems are popular with homeowners who want to get the best of both worlds. These solar systems work best to overcome the challenge of intermittency. When there isn’t enough sunshine and you don’t have a solar energy system, you can revert to the grid to continue powering appliances and lighting in your home.
To add a solar energy system for a grid-tied system is more difficult. These are not storage-ready systems and the main concern here is the cost of the batteries you need for an average-sized grid-tied system. However, your solar energy contractor can use the following options to add the battery storage for your solar panel system:
Alternating Current (AC) Coupled Solution
This is an installation where the grid-tied inverter is paired to an off-grid inverter and battery bank. This saves you money because you retain the existing inverter. It’s also flexible in terms of the battery size you choose. During a power outage, you can charge your batteries and the essential appliances run seamlessly. The downside is the electricity loss in the conversion which reduces the efficiency of your solar energy system.
DC Coupled Solution
This is a solar storage retrofit idea where a charge controller is introduced to connect the solar array directly to the battery bank. This is a more expensive option than the AC coupled idea but you enjoy higher efficiency. This solution is more flexible and works with multiple off-grid inverters and battery bank sizes. However, it comes with a manual transfer switch to initiate PV charging.
Installing a Storage-Ready Inverter
The last option is to replace the grid-tie inverter with a storage-ready Inverter. It’s the most expensive option for adding storage to your existing solar system. The advantage is the flexibility that comes with the new inverter. It can work with any grid-tied system and you can get additional features with the inverter.
Worried about the lack of storage or low-capacity storage for your solar system? You have innovative solutions to add storage to the existing solar system. Talk to a reliable solar energy installer in your city to explore the best storage solution.