Solar Plus Battery Storage for Maximum Benefits

Homeowners with solar panels can increase the value of their renewable energy with a storage system. 

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While only about 20% of homeowners with solar panels in the U.S. have battery storage today, that number is growing as battery prices decline and consumers recognize their value, says Ben Millar, U.S. director, business development for Jinko Solar, a manufacturer and supplier of solar panels and energy storage solutions.

Solar Plus Battery Storage for Maximum Benefits

“Technology has made leaps and bounds for battery storage in recent years,” Millar says. “People understand that solar energy costs less than utility company energy. Now, they’re finding it easier to go the next step for battery storage.”

More homeowners in regions prone to hurricanes, freezes and rolling blackouts are likely to have battery storage systems as back-up to their solar panels.

“Residential solar systems often produce more energy than people are using, so that can go back into the energy structure or can be stored for future needs,” Millar says. “If there’s no storm or urgent need, homeowners can just choose to use the energy from their solar panels or the grid or from their storage.”

The reasons that homeowners of all generations buy a battery storage system include for energy cost savings, as a back-up power supply, and for time of use optimization, according to COGNITION Smart Data from Green Builder Media. 

Other reasons homeowners cite for buying battery storage are for control and monitoring, increased self-consumption of energy, energy independence, resilience, environmental sustainability, grid support / resiliency and demand response. While all generations cite the importance of a back-up power supply, younger generations are particularly focused on time of use optimization and energy independence. 

Primary Reasons for Purchasing a Battery Storage System by Generation

Source: COGNITION Smart Data

Resilient Communities and Solar Battery Storage

Millennial and Gen Z buyers rated resilience and grid support more highly than other generations as a reason to purchase a battery storage system, but every generation can improve their resilience to power outages with energy storage.

“A home with an energy storage system can keep the lights on, medicine cold, medical devices running, and help people survive longer in an extended power outage with the help of fans and air conditioning in extreme heat or a heat pump in cold weather,” Millar says. “The energy storage system can keep the refrigerator running longer for food safety, too.”

Beyond the homeowners themselves, an energy storage system can help family members and neighbors survive a natural disaster or power outage. 

“Homeowners can help their neighbors by letting them charge their phones or just give them a place that’s warm to hang out with their baby,” Millar says. “Strong, resilient families can become strong, resilient communities.” 

Studies show that the highest indicator of a homeowner going solar is whether someone in their vicinity has solar power and storage, Millar says. 

“The more people who move in that direction toward solar power and storage, and the more people take advantage of incentives, the stronger the community will be,” Millar says. “A community that can rely on its own power for a day or a few days also lowers the burden on emergency resources.”  

Battery storage offers an environmentally sustainable alternative to a generator.

“If you add maintenance and fuel costs to a generator, plus the potential difficulty of obtaining fuel during a natural disaster, a battery storage system could even be cheaper,” Millar says. “During a catastrophe, fuel is the item that’s most in demand after water, so there’s typically a shortage. Instead, you can get free renewable energy from the sun.”

Even in areas that are not prone to storms or power outages, many people like the idea of achieving some level of energy independence, Millar says.

“It’s kind of like the idea of growing your own vegetables, it provides a moment of pride and is another way of taking care of yourself and your family,” he says. 

What kind of camper are you?

When you’re ready to investigate the option of adding battery storage to your solar panel system, you may wonder how much storage you need. You can get batteries with as little as 3kw or 5kw, Millar says, but that would only store enough to power your house for an hour or so. 

“To figure out how much storage you may need, think about what type of camper you are," Millar says. "If you’re OK with a week in a tent with just a small charger for your phone, you can get by with less storage than someone who’s a rustic cabin type of person who wants stable power. If you’re a glamper who basically wants a hotel in the woods, you’ll need more storage.” 

In other words, your needs dictate what kind of storage you need.

“It also depends on how large or small your home is and where it’s located,” Millar says. “If you just need lights and your refrigerator to work, that requires less battery storage than running your house completely normally without skipping a beat.” 

Since battery systems are modular, homeowners can add more batteries to their system if they decide they want more storage. 

“They don’t take up a lot of space and can be set up flat against a three-foot section of wall,” Millar says. “Typically, people keep their solar energy storage in a garage or carport to keep them out of direct sunlight.” 

Managing your own power system

Depending on where you live, solar panels and storage can be used to make money, such as in California, Millar says.

“Generally, though, solar panels and storage benefit everyone because they’re an investment in the utility structure of your community that the utility company didn’t make,” Millar says. “The utility company can make an agreement with the homeowner or a group of homeowners to have them share their energy, then the homeowner can get paid.”

How much homeowners earn or have rebated on their energy bill depends on their location and utility company. Homeowners can also shift their energy source to their storage system at peak hours to save money. 

“If you use your stored energy instead of power from the grid at certain times when the costs are higher, you can lower your bill,” Millar says. “In some markets, it can also be more beneficial to provide energy to the grid from your solar panels at peak usage times.”

Millar believes the future of solar power is an interactive distributed energy structure throughout the U.S. to strengthen households and communities.

“On the other hand, there are some people who just think solar storage is really cool, and that’s OK, too,” Millar says.