Storage – Off-grid/Battery Backup vs. Energy Management
Energy Storage is a hot conversation topic with companies like Tesla in the news seemingly everyday touting battery technology in the Model 3 or PowerWall. As an example of how fast the energy industry is moving, Lithium Ion is a word that almost every person knows these days but only a few years ago was a new fangled tech. The new battery storage industry can and will look to solar to provide the clean energy it needs but also as a brother in the fight against old monopolistic forms of energy distribution.
Solar democratizes the energy sector in that the customer can now afford their own energy production at a cleaner and more affordable rate than the old ways of energy production. Grid parity happened years ago for residential solar and is knocking on the door of wholesale coal utility prices. If you give a person the choice between a cleanly produced kW or a dirty one at the same price, a rational person will choose the cleaner of the two. It makes sense we would want to live in a cleaner environment especially if we don’t have to pay any more to get it.
With Time of Use rate structures on the horizon in California, we need to think of new ways to use the Solar electricity produced by our panels to minimize the cost of electricity levied on us through various cost mechanisms put in place by the utilities to propagate the old model. The bottom line is that storage will become even more prominent in the near future and a distinction between what energy management and off-grid power is should be made.
Energy Independence or Minimizing Energy Bills
Depending on whether you are looking to provide your household with power in the event of a power outage or looking to minimize your energy bills, solar & battery technology have evolved to the point where consumers have options when they choose to energize their homes with some form of alternative energy.
Making the choice between energy independence and lowering your energy cost is one that should be made first because the technologies to provide each of those goals are different in cost and technology. After choosing to provide your own backup power or to manage your daily power consumption/production, your design professional can then take the next step in determining the best tech solution for your needs and budget.
Options for Energy Backup: (in order of cost – lowest to highest)
- Portable Battery
- Secure Power Supply
- Portable Generator
- Standby Generator
- Whole House Generator
- Battery Backup
Choosing Energy Independence as your main goal for an Energy storage system include reasons such as wanting backup power in the event of a power outage, to provide emergency backup to life support systems or simply cutting the cord from the power company. Modern day storage systems are sold as a complete end to end solution by manufacturers which allows for a seamless integration into the home and business. Integrated technology and software has also become more intelligent over time and now boasts some pretty amazing home monitoring solutions and automation technologies to name a few. The goal of Energy Independence unfortunately does come at a price. Backup and Off-grid technologies tend to be the most expensive solutions to employ, but when the goal is independence, price is usually not an issue. These systems tend to be more complicated and more costly to maintain, but can be set up to work autonomously in between scheduled maintenance.
Minimizing Energy Bills
If your goal is to reduce your overall energy bill when demand charges push you into a higher rate bracket or Time-Of-Use rate plans keep you from maximizing your solar energy production, an Energy Management system could be right for you. Tesla and Enphase have their own respective Energy Management technologies currently being sold. Each uses a different topology but both are meant to provide Energy Management for the whole home in an effort to reduce your bills and maximize your on-site energy production.
Referencing the image at the top of the post, you can see how an energy management system can shave off the un-used portion or your solar energy production and store it away into a battery for use later in the evening when the sun is not out. In this example, once the household usage becomes greater than the production of the solar array, the energy will then be pulled out of the batteries for use in the home. Depending on the amount of battery storage, the home could not need to use any power from the power company because it stored the solar energy during the day and used it overnight.
These type of systems tend to be more cost effective than the off-grid and battery-backup topologies because they tend to be less complicated and easier to install and integrate. Energy Management systems are the newest generation of technology in the storage systems sector that has been created to meet the growing demand in home and business energy storage and management. As the electric future comes ever closer, more technological advances like this will be needed to allow us to maximize our investments and use our power the way we want.
Ocotillo Solar Electric