As interests for renewable energy solutions continues to grow, battery storage has become a popular topic in the energy sector. As covered in part 1, by combining solar with batteries, businesses can enhance their energy efficiency, reduce reliance on the grid, and optimise their energy usage.
In this article, we're diving deeper into the world of battery storage by addressing the top 5 practical questions we frequently encounter.
1. How Does Commercial Battery Storage Work?
Commercial battery storage takes electrical energy from the grid or solar panels and stores it as chemical energy in batteries. This stored energy can be discharged back into the electrical system when required, providing businesses with greater flexibility and control over their energy usage.
Essentially, the battery is connected to the facility's switchboard. The power from the switchboard, whether from solar panels or the grid, is directed to the battery inverter, which converts it to DC power for storage in the battery cells. When the energy is needed, the process is reversed, and the DC power is converted back to AC power before being fed back into the switchboard to power the facility.
2. What is the lifespan of a commercial battery?
The lifespan of commercial batteries depends on various factors, such as battery chemistry, usage patterns, and maintenance practices. Generally, lithium-ion batteries can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years. Their longevity is attributed to efficient cycling, averaging up to 10,000 lifetime cycles. In contrast, lead-acid batteries have a shorter lifespan, typically lasting between 500 to 1,200 cycles.
Battery warranties are often indicative of their expected lifespan, as they typically specify the number of cycles and calendar years. Lithium-ion batteries usually come with a 10-year warranty. In our experience, it is advisable to plan for a battery changeover around the 12th year. This approach allows for an additional two to three years of use after the manufacturer's warranty coverage before replacement is necessary.
3. What Configuration of Commercial Battery Storage Should Suit My Needs?
The versatility of commercial battery storage is evident in its various configurations, tailored to suit different energy needs. Four common configurations are:
- Simple battery storage: This is the most basic configuration for connecting a battery to your site. The battery will charge using your site's electrical supply (grid energy) during off-peak or low-rate times and discharge through peak or high-rate times.
- Hybrid Systems: These systems combine solar panels and battery storage with the grid, creating a dynamic synergy. During periods of ample sunlight, excess energy is stored in the batteries, ready to be tapped into during nighttime loads or peak demand periods.
- Backup Capability: Battery storage can serve as an emergency power source during grid outages, ensuring critical operations continue uninterrupted. This capability is especially valuable for businesses where even momentary power disruptions can result in significant financial losses.
- Off-Grid Systems: Off-grid configurations are deployed in locations where connecting to the main electrical grid is either impractical or cost-prohibitive. Commercial entities, particularly in remote areas, can rely entirely on battery storage or a combination of renewable energy sources, such as solar and bio-diesel or waste-to-energy generators, to deliver 100% of their energy consumption.
4. How Much Space Will I Need for Battery System?
When considering commercial battery storage systems, space is a crucial factor to take into account. Generally, a commercial battery has a compact design resembling a tall fridge. For instance, a 100-kilowatt-hour storage capacity would occupy a space of approximately two meters in height, one meter in width, and one meter in depth.
Lithium-ion batteries, commonly used in commercial applications, offer several advantages contributing to their space efficiency. These batteries have a wide temperature operating range, typically between 0°C to 38°C, making them suitable for outdoor installations.
Moreover, lithium-ion systems are more energy-dense than lead-acid batteries. Energy density refers to the amount of energy (measured in kilowatt-hours) that a battery can store per unit of weight. So, a battery with a higher energy density—able to store more energy per unit of weight—will occupy less space while delivering the same or even greater energy storage capacity, making them ideal for commercial setups with limited space availability.
5. What Risks Need to Be Minimised?
As with any technology, there are various safety considerations that should not be overlooked. The following risks should be addressed when considering a battery storage system:
- Weather Damages: Outdoor installations are susceptible to harsh weather conditions like hail, flooding, heatwaves, or fire. Proper design and testing are necessary to ensure batteries can withstand such elements. For example, additional cooling measures may be necessary if your site is located in hotter climates.
- Overheating: Batteries being a lithium chemistry, typically can burn very hot and very long during charging and discharging processes. If they also misbehave electrically, it could cause issues on the site in terms of breakers tripping or harmonics or things not happening the way they should. Proper ventilation, thermal management systems, and monitoring of battery temperature can prevent overheating and ensure safe operation.
- Overcharging: Overcharging can lead to battery degradation, reduced lifespan, and safety hazards. Implementing battery management systems with overcharge protection and following manufacturer guidelines for charging can prevent overcharging incidents.
So, Are Solar Batteries Right for You Now?
Commercial battery storage systems offer businesses a range of benefits, including energy optimisation, enhanced reliability, and reduced costs.
By capturing and storing excess solar energy, businesses can increase their energy independence and contribute to a more sustainable future. However, it's crucial for businesses to understand how commercial battery storage works, consider the lifespan of batteries and mitigate potential risks associated with storage.
By following proper guidelines for safe storage and maintenance, businesses can maximise the benefits of commercial battery storage and make informed decisions regarding the adoption of solar batteries.
You can also read the latest news and find out what’s happening in the commercial solar space at Smart Insights.