Understanding solar battery storage: a 2024 guide for UK homeowners and businesses

Using solar energy allows businesses to decrease their demand for power from the grid, and project a 'greener' image.

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The importance of solar battery storage for UK homeowners and businesses

As we move away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable energy from renewables, solar power will form an essential part of the process. The ability to store the energy generated by photovoltaic solar panels (solar PVs) is as important as generating the energy in the first place. Solar battery storage systems capture and store solar energy generated during the day, which can then be used at night, or on cloudy days, or when demand outstrips supply. For UK homeowners and businesses, this means less dependence on the National Grid, and lower electricity bills.

Understanding solar battery storage

The technology may be complex, but the principle is very simple. Solar PVs convert sunshine into electricity, and on a sunny day they can produce more power than the home or business will use. Using a solar battery storage system stops that energy from going to waste. When the sun isn’t shining, the stored energy can be tapped to power your home or business. If the battery is fully charged and your solar PVs are still generating more electricity than you can use, you can effectively sell the excess back to the grid. If your battery is empty and the sun isn’t shining, you can draw energy back from the grid to make up the shortfall.

The benefits of solar battery storage

As well as the obvious money-saving advantages, there are extra benefits to ‘going solar’. Solar battery storage improves energy security. Stored energy can be used by UK homeowners and businesses during power outages, which is particularly useful for businesses that rely on uninterrupted power. Then there are the environmental benefits. By reducing emissions, you’re helping to combat the climate crisis and contributing to sustainable energy generation – a definite tick in the public-relations box for businesses.

Solar battery storage options

There are a number of options available, each with benefits and drawbacks.

Some of the oldest and most common storage systems use lead-acid batteries. Like the battery in your fossil-fuel powered car, lead-acid batteries are relatively cheap and reliable, but they don’t last as long, or store as much energy, as newer technologies. You can expect them to last from two to five years.

A current favourite with both businesses and UK homeowners is lithium-ion battery technology. Lithium-ion batteries have a higher storage capacity, last longer (around 10 to 15 years), and require little maintenance. They are, however, costly to buy – and, arguably, environmentally costly to produce.

Flow batteries use liquid electrolytes to store energy. They are long-lasting (20 years or more), and are best suited to large-scale energy storage. For smaller systems, they are usually too bulky to use effectively.

If you’re looking for non-toxic, eco-friendly solar battery systems with good energy storage capacity and a reasonable lifespan (10 years or so), saltwater batteries might be the answer. Just bear in mind that they are a developing technology, without a long track record of reliability. Nickel-based batteries are hard-wearing, long-lasting (10 to 15 years), and suited to extremes in temperature. While they might sound like the perfect solution, they are pricey, and some of the material that goes into their manufacture is environmentally toxic.

A guide to the installation process

In addition to choosing a solar battery storage solution that’s right for you, there are, as you might expect, a number of pre-installation assessments to be carried out, permits to seek, and so on. Excel Electrical will help with all of these.

The installation itself will involve mounting the battery and connecting it to your solar inverter, which converts the DC current produced by your solar PVs to AC, for use as sustainable energy in your home or business.  The battery and inverter are then integrated into your solar PV system, and the battery is connected to your main consumer unit. Any reputable electrical contractor will then thoroughly inspect and test the system before certifying it fit for use.  Many solar battery systems come with apps or online portals that support real-time monitoring, allowing you to check that the battery is continuing to work as it should – and alert your electrical contractor if it isn’t.

Cost and return on investment (ROI)

This is a bit of a piece-of-string question. Depending on the solar battery system you select, and any local or national government grants or rebates on offer at the time, the cost of a typical solar battery system for UK homeowners could be anywhere between £7,000 and £20,000.

Commercial solutions will usually cost considerably more. As a pessimistic estimate, assuming your system cost £15,000 and saved you £500 a year, the ROI would be 30 years. That will be reduced by optimising your usage patterns, and taking advantage of any government funding available. A fully integrated solar energy system is also likely to increase the value of your property, if and when you’re looking to sell.

Not ready yet?

While replacing fossil fuel generation with sustainable energy and solar battery storage technology is an important step along the path to sustainability, and to combatting the climate crisis, making the switch is still expensive. Everybody understands, particularly in an uncertain economy, why we stick with our traditional energy suppliers. The bills may recently have been eye-watering, but at least there’s no upfront cost.

As the technology develops and improves, solar PVs and battery systems will come down in price for UK homeowners and businesses – and hopefully offer more efficient and straightforward sustainable energy generation. If you’re not ready to go solar yet, make sure you stay informed!

Talk to us

Excel Electrical can help. If you’re planning a solar battery storage solution, or considering one for the future, talk to us. Our experienced, qualified engineers will be happy to visit your home or business and talk through your requirements. We’ll arrange a convenient date and time to carry out the work (keeping disruption to a minimum), and leave you with all the necessary documentation – and the peace of mind of a job well done. To discuss your needs or request a visit, call us today on 01508 488007 or email enquiries@excelelectrical.co.uk.

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