Solar battery storage for beginners

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Solar batteries have rocked the energy world, as a growing number of Aussies turn to storage solutions in an attempt to boost the savings of their solar systems. That said, the technology remains relatively new and many solar households are yet to appreciate the potential savings that storage batteries can deliver. In this article, Canstar Blue will take you through the basics, including what a solar battery is, how much they cost, and how to get the best bang for your renewable energy buck.

What is a solar battery?

Solar battery storage units store electricity generated by your solar panels to use later on, even when the sun goes down.

Ordinarily, electricity generated by solar panels that is not immediately used by a household would be diverted to the energy grid in exchange for a feed-in tariff. Because solar generation peaks in the middle of the day when many homes are empty, the majority of electricity produced by solar is lost to the grid. Households with a solar battery can instead store this power and use it themselves some other time.

Customers save more by using the electricity generated by their solar panels themselves rather than exporting it to the grid. That’s because the usual price of electricity (20-35c/kWh) exceeds standard feed-in tariff rates (6-10c/kWh). Households that installed solar early on and are still receiving premium prices on exported solar of 40 to 60 cents per kWh are less likely to save money with a residential storage battery. However, these generous solar bonus schemes will end at some point.

What solar batteries are available in Australia?

Household solar storage is a rapidly emerging technology, with a growing list of manufacturers introducing their own take on these products. There are already dozens of solar batteries on the market, and many brands such as Redflow and Aquion have developed unique technologies to deliver what they consider a superior battery. Keep in mind that the market continues to expand, so you may have even more options than the ones we mentioned.

How much do solar batteries cost?

A new solar battery will usually cost $2,000 to $20,000, depending on the size and make of the model. Smaller batteries, such as the 1.2kWh Enphase storage unit, cost $2,000 including installation, while larger batteries, such as Tesla’s 13.2kWh Powerwall 2, will cost $8,800 plus installation.

The below list provides the expected price of certain residential solar storage systems, though bear in mind prices may vary in some areas.

List of solar battery prices

Solar battery model Capacity Price
Enphases AC Battery 1.2kWh $2,000*
Aquion Aspen 2.2kWh $2,300
SolaX Lead Carbon 6kWh $6,700
BYD Mini ES 3.75kWh $8,400*
Tesla Powerwall 2 13.2kWh $8,800
LG Chem Resu 10 9.8kWh $8,800
Ampetus Energy Pod 14.4kWh $11,450
Redflor Z Cell 10kWh $12,600
Fronius Solar Battery 12kWh $15,500
Megallan HESS 12.8kWh $20,200
Zen Freedom Powerbank 16kWh $22,350*

*Includes Installation

As you can see, solar home storage isn’t exactly cheap – in fact it’s unclear if the savings a battery can produce will even justify its costs. That said, the price of home solar storage has tumbled in recent years and it’s expected this trend will continue. If a solar battery looks a little out of your budget right now, be sure to check prices every six months or so.

How to get the most out of your solar battery

To maximise the potential savings of a solar storage battery, it’s important to ensure you have a suitable electricity tariff. Households with a time of use, flexible rate or even controlled load tariff stand to save the most, while single rate customers may be unable to get the same value.

Time of use and flexible rate tariffs charge different rates at different times. Electricity is usually cheapest during normal working hours and very late at night, and most expensive during peak demand periods – usually between 3pm and 9pm. Flexible rate or time of use customers with a solar battery can benefit from lower rates for most of the day, and use their stored solar power to cover peak period energy usage, rather than paying the higher peak rates. Most solar storage units can be set to automatically kick in between these hours. Alternatively, some systems are compatible with apps that let you monitor and control when and how your stored solar power is used.

A controlled load tariff can also speed-up your solar battery savings. Appliances connected to a controlled load circuit only receive electricity for a few hours per day, usually late at night. In exchange, however, the price of electricity is much lower. Customers could even connect their solar battery to a controlled load and charge their battery overnight with grid electricity for cheap. By morning, they can use their charged storage unit, rather than pay the full price for electricity.

Finally, it’s important to make sure you are with an electricity retailer that helps you get the best value on solar. Be sure to compare solar providers at Canstar Blue.

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