Is battery storage right for you?

By Technical Director, Phil Powell

We hear a lot about batteries these days and how they will revolutionise the home energy sector. They are fast becoming a must-have for the early adopters, but do they live up to the hype?

A) Batteries work in 3 ways, or sometimes in a combination of 3 ways

1

They store surplus generation from the solar PV system for use in the evening.

2

They are recharged with a cheap off-peak tariff overnight, to be used during the next day when the tariff is more expensive.

3

They act as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and provide power during power cuts to keep electrical devices running for a period, e.g heart rate monitors. 

B) Lead acid or lithium ion?

The most current cost effective options are either lead acid or lithium ion batteries. For longevity they generally should not discharge below a minimum depth of discharge (DOD), and most systems have a device fitted to prevent that happening. The DOD for lead acid batteries is 50% and 20% for lithium ion (unless the battery is used for emergency supply during power-cuts when this can be overridden).

So, when you are quoted a lithium ion battery capacity of 5kW, you’re actually only getting 80% of that capacity, i.e 4kW.

C) Costs

The current cost of a lithium ion battery is around £300 per rather kWh capacity. In addition, a dedicated inverter is also needed to convert the direct current (DC) stored by the batteries, to alternative current (AC) so it can then flow into your main circuit. As a guide price, you should allow a budget of around £1,500 for supply and installation of the inverter, and the electrical connections.

So, a 4.8kWh lithium ion battery (a typical size for a household) and inverter, should cost about £2,900 supplied and installed.

D) Savings

So, going back to our previous three scenarios.

1

If the battery is used for storing surplus solar energy just once a day, it will store a maximum of 80% of the rated capacity. This can then be used in the evening and night.

So, a 4.8kWh would save 3.84kWh a day (4.8 x 80%), multiplied by the 365 days of the year, gives a maximum of 1,400kWh a year. If you’re currently paying 16p/kWh to your supplier, then that represents a saving of £224 a year.

However, this assumes you have surplus solar energy everyday to store in your battery system. In reality, you will have insufficient surplus power and won’t use all the power in the evening. As a further complication, it’s also possible you could use and discharge your battery more than once a day which would increase your savings.

You need to be clear about how much you are likely to use the batteries.

2

If the battery is used to store cheap rate power over night for use during the day, it’s easier to estimate the savings.

First, work out the cost differential between your day and night rates. E.g, 18p/kWh during the day and 9p/kWh at night.

Second, to calculate the yearly savings, it would be 80% of the rated battery capacity multiplied by the 365 days of the year, multiplied by the cost differential. Using the same 4.8kWh battery example, the calculation would be:

3.83kWh x 365 days x 9p = saving £126 per year (1,400kWh x 9p)

Here, you can charge up 100% every night but won’t necessarily use 100% of the stored power everyday.

3

The battery would be used (hopefully) infrequently and only during a power cut.

The consideration here is the cost of providing emergency blackout power against the cost of disruption to your electrical devices, e.g medical breathing apparatus.

Conclusion

Depending on your needs, your solar generation and your export, it can be difficult to decide if a battery system is right for you.

It also gets more complicated if you have an electric vehicle.

However, our data shows that households will use around 50% of their battery storage – and we’re happy to go through these with your personal circumstances.

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