Why You Need a Solar Battery Storage System

Solar Battery

Solar panels have become increasingly popular in recent years. Around 970,000 UK households are using the technology to not only reduce their reliance on the National Grid but to lower their carbon emissions.

With energy bills set to rise by 54% when the new energy price cap is introduced in April, installing solar panels is an even more attractive proposition.

If you already have solar panels or are considering getting them installed on your roof you may want to invest in solar batteries as well. Solar panel battery storage will allow you to store any excess energy your solar panels generate during the day and to use it when your panels are not producing electricity at night.

Pairing solar batteries with solar panels is a relatively new practice, but an effective one. Unless you and your household use electricity every minute of every day you will have solar power that goes unused. Typically, you’ll lose 50% of the electricity produced by your panels if you don’t have a solar battery as your unused electricity will go straight back to the grid. Solar batteries enable you to store any surplus energy for use at a later time, reducing your reliance on electricity supplied by the National Grid even further, cutting your energy bills and lowering your carbon footprint.

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Without doubt, battery storage in homes is vital for the future as it can help people use more renewable technology, reduce the evening peak demand and avoid costly transmission upgrades to the National Grid. Storage technology has improved an enormous amount in the last few years and is becoming more affordable as time goes on.

The number of homes using solar batteries is currently only around 10,000 as the extra cost on top of the solar panels themselves is a barrier to many people. The average solar battery costs £4,500. The main contributors to solar battery costs are the chemical materials that make up the battery, the life cycle of the battery, the storage capacity and the usable capacity. The return on your investment in solar batteries will be affected by battery capacity, battery degradation, and the fluctuation of electricity prices.

The two most commonly found chemical materials in batteries used for solar panel systems are lithium-iron and lead-acid. Though lithium-iron batteries are more expensive they still enjoy a bigger market share due to their longer lifespan and higher usable capacity.

A solar battery will typically last you 10-15 years which means over the 25-year lifespan of most solar systems you will need to buy two batteries which effectively doubles the cost.

However, you may find the benefits far outweigh the pain of the initial costs. Here are the key reasons for choosing to invest in battery storage alongside your solar system:

  1. You can maximise the solar energy used at home. By storing energy for later use you can save more money.
  2. You can be more independent from the National Grid which gives you better protection from energy price rises.
  3. You can significantly lower your energy costs.
  4. You can be sure that more of the electricity you use at home is zero-carbon as many renewable tariffs are not as green as they seem.
  5. You can earn money by selling stored energy to the grid.
  6. You have protection from power cuts.
  7. You can take advantage of off-peak charging by signing up to a time of use tariff which means you can store energy when it’s cheap and avoid importing when it’s expensive.

You can sell your surplus energy back to the National Grid via the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) which is a government backed initiative that requires energy suppliers with 150,000 customers or more to pay ‘small scale generators’ for low-carbon electricity. The maximum you can receive currently is 5.5p per kWh (offered by Octopus Energy).

While electricity is at least 18.9p per kWh and soon to be much higher, you’ll save more money by simply storing your surplus energy in your solar battery to use later. Higher grid electricity prices make storing your own energy in solar batteries much more worthwhile. You can lower your energy costs significantly by charging the solar battery during off-peak periods and discharging it during peak hours. The amount you save by paying less to your utility company can serve towards reducing your battery system costs.

By using photovoltaics with a battery, you could essentially run your home on 100% renewable solar energy day and night, if your electricity demand does not exceed the supply that your battery can provide.

Storing your solar -generated energy in a battery is also far more efficient as more of your electricity is used where it’s made because it doesn’t have to travel anywhere. 

It’s important to consider what size of battery you will need. If your battery capacity is too small you won’t be able to store much electricity and you’ll end up using an unnecessary amount of electricity from the grid. You should consider installing a battery with a bigger capacity if you live in a large house.

The idea behind time of use tariffs or TOUs is to encourage customers to use energy at off-peak times. The TOU flexible tariff offers you cheaper electricity prices when demand and energy prices are at their lowest. You will need a smart meter to monitor prices and then this data can be used to move some types of energy use to cheaper periods, helping to avoid high, peak rate prices.

Nobody loses out this way as energy companies can offer lower prices at off-peak times so they can better manage demand, and customers can lower their bills.

It’s difficult to give a definitive answer on the ROI of solar batteries because it depends entirely on how much or little a battery is used to determine how much is saved. One thing you can be sure of though, is that a solar battery will reduce your grid reliance, meaning you’ll spend less on your energy bills.

Interest in solar batteries is definitely growing. Which.co.uk ran a survey in 2019 which found that just 6% of solar panel owners had their own batteries but 74% would consider purchasing one. This was an increase on the 2018 results when only 60% of respondents said that they’d consider a solar battery. A survey conducted by Which? In May 2019 found that almost 75% of 119 solar battery owners said that battery storage had helped them save money on electricity to a great extent or some extent.

If you can afford to install a solar battery, it is a worthwhile investment for their convenience alone. You can have peace of mind knowing that if you have a power cut, your battery will come to the rescue. They are a fantastic addition to your solar panels if you are thinking about moving completely off-grid as with good management, enough power and a large enough capacity, a solar battery can ensure that you never run out of electricity.

UK’s Architects Call for a National Programme of Carbon-Cutting Technologies

architect

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) are calling for the UK’s draughty housing stock to be properly insulated in a national drive to reduce carbon emissions.

The institute has calculated that insulation, double or triple glazing and gas boiler replacement in just 3.3m interwar homes in England’s towns and cities could cut the country’s carbon emissions by 4% helping it towards the net zero target by 2050.

Many architects feel so strongly that immediate action needs to be taken that they supported Insulate Britain’s campaign last year. A joint statement was published by Architects Climate Action Network and Architects Declare in September 2021 which said:

“The UK’s housing stock is not fit for the climate emergency we are in. To meet the government’s own legal obligation of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, we must undertake a massive and holistic retrofit of UK homes. This has been advised in numerous reports to the government and the UK will not meet our climate obligations without updating our buildings.”

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They added:

“The Insulate Britain campaign is highlighting one aspect of the housing crisis in this country. The warnings have been given and the science is clear, we must act now. Any more delay is simply irresponsible.”

As energy prices soar and the number of people living in fuel poverty increases the stark reality of heating the UK’s poorly insulated and draughty homes is hitting home hard.

Around half of the interwar homes, built between 1919 and 1930, have uninsulated solid walls that are responsible for almost half of heat loss. Those built between 1930 and 1945 mostly have cavity walls, few of which have been insulated.

Simon Allford, the president of the RIBA said:

“There can be no further delay in embarking on a national programme of home retrofitting, which will transform UK housing, creating warm and cheaper-to-heat homes while bringing health and wider societal benefits. This process will drastically reduce fuel poverty, create half a million green jobs, and positively contribute to the national levelling up agenda.”

Currently, only 10% of interwar homes achieve an energy performance certificate (EPC) above band C. The RIBA said that if current band D rated homes were retrofitted to achieve band C performance, households would save £511 a year under the proposed 2022 energy price cap.

Interestingly, according to research by thinktank Onward, 900,000 to 1.3 million jobs could be created in low carbon heating and energy efficiency if the government followed advice given by the UK Committee on Climate Change.

The UK Green Building Council believes that the government’s number one priority over the coming weeks and months should be to ensure fuel bills are kept affordable. At the same time the government needs to understand the crucial role that reducing energy demand in our homes plays in the UK’s transition to net zero by 2050. Reducing the UK’s dependency on gas and retrofitting 29 million homes is essential.

The UKGBC gathered over 100 organisations across the built environment over the course of 2021 to develop an evidence-based Net Zero Carbon Roadmap for the Built Environment. The roadmap detailed what government policy changes and industry actions are needed to deliver net zero by 2050 across the sector. The Roadmap exposed the fact that the current state of the UK’s housing stock is incompatible with our climate targets, and that there can be no further delay in tackling the retrofit challenge.

The RIBA would like to see a national programme and has costed the work required at up to £38bn, which is far more than the current government green home subsidies that have been allocated for carbon-cutting measures. However, it believes the works could be cheaper due to the repetitive designs of terraced and semi-detached homes which should allow for economies of scale in a mass rollout. The professional body also predicts savings of more than £500 a year in energy bills in many cases.

The RIBA want the government to introduce policies that will incentivise private owners, who own more than 70% of interwar homes and social landlords to fund the works.

Approximately 15% to 20% of the UK’s CO2 emissions are currently generated from heating homes. The total CO2 produced is approximately 58.5m tonnes per year. Draughty homes are not a new issue for the government. Successive governments have failed to address the retrofit challenge in a coherent and coordinated way. There have been many stop-start national policy interventions over the years such as the failure of the Green Deal, the successive cuts for the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and most recently of all the untimely scrapping of the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme. For all the government’s recent rhetoric, the sad reality is that over the last 9 years the number of energy efficiency measures being installed in our homes each year has dropped by over 70 per cent.

Experts have warned that some retrofitting measures to cut carbon emissions are more cost-effective than others. Jan Rosenow, the Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project, a clean energy thinktank, said loft and cavity wall insulation were among measures that delivered the best “bang for buck” in terms of cutting carbon, while solid-wall insulation was less efficient. He did say that solid-wall insulation can make homes more comfortable but thought that investing the money in other carbon-cutting technologies such as renewable energy might be more cost-effective.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said:

“Efficiency is the first crucial step to limiting our energy demand. Once we have done that, we can fill the gaps with cheaper renewables, bring our homes down to zero emissions and save money on bills.”

The RIBA have declared their plan at the same time as a campaign has been growing among architects to “retrofit first” in order to reduce the carbon emissions from creating new buildings. Campaigners recently won a victory when the multinational bank Citigroup chose not to demolish its 42-storey skyscraper at Canary Wharf, and instead planned to retrofit it, saving 100,000 tonnes of embodied carbon.

Emissions need to fall by about a quarter by 2030 from 1990 levels for the UK to meet its carbon budget.  The RIBA say that housing is one of the only sectors where the implementation of measures to reduce emissions has been delayed.

The Independent Climate Change Committee has estimated that if the UK are to get to net zero, it will need to spend £55bn on improving efficiency in existing homes by 2050. It warns that buildings of all types are one of the costliest challenges across the economy.

When compared with capturing carbon and other high-tech solutions, retrofitting existing homes is far easier. The commitment of the government to roll-out a co-ordinated grant-funded national retrofit programme is required. It needs to be dealt with like any other infrastructure project, but this is one that will benefit the whole country with training, jobs, and climate-resilient homes.

Hopefully the energy crisis will be the wake-up call that finally instils an understanding of how crucial it is to make energy efficiency a national priority, not just to protect consumers, but because of its contribution to achieving the UK’s legally mandated net zero ambitions.