In my business as a solar consultant, people ask me all the time about using batteries to store the solar energy they produce when they install solar PV on their home or business. I usually respond by talking about how we humans store solar energy around our midsection.
Belly Fat is Stored Solar Energy
As weird as it may sound, the fat around our waste is stored solar energy. The extra weight accumulates over time when we eat more calories than we burn during the day. If your solar panels produce more energy then you use during the day, it can be stored for future use. However, today it’s just too expensive to invest in batteries relative to the benefit of storing the extra solar energy you produce.
The main reason for this is the fact that most power companies offer net metering. Rather than storing the extra solar in batteries in your basement, the power company gives you credit for the energy you produced but did not consume. When it gets dark outside you can draw down that credit. This is cheaper and much simpler to do than installing a bunch of batteries.
What Happens When the Power Goes Out?
You may be asking yourself, but what about when the power goes out? Sure if you had stored solar energy in batteries, this would allow you to operate some appliances until the power comes back on. The reality is, however, that the power rarely goes out and it would be much cheaper to just go to Home Depot or Lowes and buy a gas generator to provide power in the event of a power outage. According to the Energy Information Administration most of us experience only one or two power outages a year with total duration of about 2 hours.
Batteries in Your Basement or Garage?
The performance of batteries is improving all the time and the cost is decreasing. You may have heard of Tesla’s Power Wall battery system for the home? Buying batteries will make sense in the future when power companies get tired of giving us credit for the extra solar energy we produce and the price of batteries drops. I’ve been working on an idea for a couple decades that involves using the batteries in an electric vehicle to provide emergency power. This concept has become known as vehicle-to-grid.
It is definitely possible to store the excess solar energy your PV system produces, but it’s just not worth the investment given the fact that most power companies will credit your bill for the excess power you produce. Furthermore, buying a small gas generator for emergency power is less costly then installing batteries.
My web site Go Solar Coach contains additional information if you are considering going solar. It is my goal to provided expert, independent information to help people go solar with confidence.