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Understanding Solar Plus Storage

photograph of solar panels with trees in the background

Solar panels have a singular purpose: to harness sunlight and convert it into electricity. However, their energy production is limited to when the sun is shining. This is where the significance of storing solar energy for later use comes into play, as it helps maintain a balance between electricity generation and demand. Battery storage presents itself as the solution for storing this energy.

What is battery storage?

Energy storage, also referred to as battery storage, is the capture and storage of energy (typically renewable) produced at one time for use at a later time. The device that stores this power is a battery, typically a lithium-ion battery. Battery storage systems used in solar energy production have the capacity to store surplus solar energy not immediately used, allowing it to be used on demand, especially during peak demand times or when the sun is not shining.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used for energy storage systems. Lithium, a lightweight metal, exhibits excellent conductivity for electric current. The reversible chemical reactions of lithium ions enable rechargeable batteries to both absorb and release power. Lithium-ion batteries are renowned for their high energy storage capacity and extended charge retention compared to other battery types. The decreasing cost of lithium-ion batteries is attributed to the surging demand for electric vehicles, which heavily rely on these batteries.

Despite having a relatively smaller storage capacity compared to alternative systems, lithium-ion battery systems are gaining popularity due to their versatility, compact size, affordability, and widespread availability. This has led to increased adoption by utilities for various applications. The expanding electric vehicle market has also contributed to the declining prices of lithium-ion batteries, as they are an indispensable component. In fact, according to "U.S. Energy Storage Monitor: Q3 2018" from GTM Research, over 10,000 of these systems have been installed nationwide, accounting for a staggering 89% of all new energy storage capacity installed in 2015.

What is a solar-plus-storage system?

Many owners of solar-energy systems are exploring options to connect their systems to batteries, allowing them to utilize the stored energy during nighttime or power outages. In essence, a solar-plus-storage system consists of a battery that is charged by a connected solar system, such as a photovoltaic (PV) system. By co-locating the PV system and the storage system, they can share certain hardware components, resulting in potential cost savings. Additionally, co-locating can reduce expenses associated with site preparation, land acquisition, installation labor, permitting, interconnection, and developer overhead and profit.

Benefits of energy storage systems

Energy storage systems have many benefits, including:

  • Grid Reliability: Ensuring that the U.S. electric grid can supply enough power to meet everyone's needs during peak times.

  • Outage Recovery: Energy storage systems can also help utilities recover faster after outages.

  • Reduces Consumer Costs: Energy storage can help reduce costs by storing excess energy when prices are low and releasing it during peak periods when rates are higher. This allows for a more efficient utilization of resources, providing a cost-effective solution for managing energy demand and supply.

  • Renewable Energy: Energy storage enables us to power the grid using renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, even when the sun is down or the wind is not blowing.

Challenges of energy storage systems

Energy storage facilities face multiple challenges, including:

  • Pricing: The challenge of energy storage systems lies in making it more affordable by utilizing cheaper batteries and enhancing management and integration techniques. The key is striking a balance between cost-effectiveness and optimal performance.

  • Planning: Effective integration of storage technologies with the existing grid necessitates careful planning. Nevertheless, accurately quantifying the costs and benefits of each technology can pose a challenge. Additionally, refining cost estimates, assessing benefits, and gathering comprehensive data are imperative for an informed and efficient planning process.

  • Implementation Challenges: It can be difficult to put storage technologies on a grid that wasn't designed for this application.

  • Navigating Regulations: Putting storage on the grid requires navigating varied state rules and regulations.

What is the future of solar energy storage systems?

Solar energy storage systems have a crucial goal: ensuring the U.S. electric grid can supply ample energy to meet everyone's needs during peak times, all at an affordable cost. This is vital for maintaining grid reliability and protecting productivity. As solar energy becomes increasingly affordable and widespread, the market potential for energy-storage devices continues to grow. Nevertheless, the true hurdle lies in achieving greater affordability in storage through the utilization of more cost-effective batteries, as well as the enhancement of management and integration techniques. The crux of the matter is finding the perfect equilibrium between cost-effectiveness and optimal performance.

Property owners interested in contributing to solar energy production can lease their land for solar farms, generating revenue and contributing to local renewable energy generation. By listing your property for lease on LandGate's marketplace, you can connect with a high-intent network of solar energy developers actively sourcing new sites:

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