True Off-Grid Living
There’s a common misconception among those unfamiliar with the workings of photovoltaic systems that people who go solar are disconnected from the grid. Currently, that’s not usually the case. Most solar adopters are actually still tied to utility infrastructure, often drawing energy from the electric company when solar electricity production slows.
In order to be truly “off the grid,” on would need a source of backup power for hours when solar power conversion is slow, such as at night or on dark, overcast days. This backup source can come in a few forms: natural gas generators, petrol-fueled generators, or battery backup. Of the three, battery-based backup systems are often seen as the most attractive option, and they’re becoming more so all the time.
Batteries Are Getting Better
But until recently, battery backup technology left much to be desired. The batteries of yesteryear were high-maintenance, expensive, and needed to be replaced due to periodic losses in efficiency and storage capacity.
But as with all things high-tech, battery technology has made significant advances in recent years. Battery backup systems are becoming more cost-effective than they once were, and new types of batteries offer enhanced performance, lower maintenance costs, and longer lifespan.
Battery Backup Poised for Big Growth
It’s estimated that solar-plus-battery systems will become cost-effective for most of us within the next decade, and as utilities scramble to cover operating costs with an ever-shrinking client base, it’s likely that battery backup will become an even more attractive option.
Pros of Battery Backup Systems
Battery backup systems have several key advantages over other options. First, they allow solar users to disconnect from utilities entirely. Instead of paying for electricity while solar production is slow, they simply store they energy their PV systems have generated for later use.
Second, battery backup systems do not have to be refueled like generators. Gas generators must be refueled every few hours, and while natural gas and liquid propane generators are tied to the home’s gas line, they contribute to overall fuel supply consumption.
Third, unlike gas generators, battery backup systems do not need to be manually set up any time extra power is needed. The transition from solar power to battery backup is seamless.
Fourth, battery systems emit no greenhouse gases. And while any manufacturing process has certain environmental ramifications, the overall ecological impact of using a battery backup system is certainly less than running a gas-powered generator every time the sun goes down.
Finally, battery backup systems are noiseless. Why listen to the sound of a gas generator if you don’t have to?
A Preview of Things to Come With Solar
If you’re interested in battery backups, you’ve probably heard about Tesla’s new Powerwall battery. It’s a lithium ion battery that’s guaranteed for ten years. Unlike older battery systems, it’s designed to be maintenance-free, and its small footprint allows it to be mounted inconspicuously. Tesla is now taking reservations for the new Powerwall system, which is slated to begin shipping this summer.
[Photo Via: NewEnglandCleanEnergy]