Five factors to consider when interested in renewable energy

renewable energy resourcesHere at reneenergy.com, we strive to provide information to help you with your going solar or other renewable energy options that are available to you. Most resources shared on our blogs are USA based and hence are specific to the US context.

However, we have received questions recently from people who are not from the USA about how to go solar specifically in their respective countries. As a result, this blog attempts to generalize some aspects of knowing how to adopt solar or other renewable energy technologies based on socioeconomic, clean energy technological options as well as policy and regulatory frameworks that affect how you benefit or install renewable energy technologies for your home or business. This particular blog will just capture these factors in general and we will attempt to be specific and capture more details in our future blogs:

  1. Before adopting clean energy resources, you want to assess whether this is the right decision for your household or business. Any renewable energy option adopted is based on your energy needs and its applications and whether it makes economic sense. Environmental or sustainability reasons are other aspects that affect, especially businesses to adopt renewable energy in order to reduce their carbon footprint and help to achieve their sustainability goals. For instance, assessing whether solar is right for your home or business can be determined by how much you can save with going solar or whether you have a reliable source of power. Power outages are one issue that causes people and businesses to look for alternative sources of energy like solar plus battery energy storage. Many power outages occur during peak hours when there is very high energy demand that cannot be met by the existing capacity on the grid.
  2. Many rural communities remain not connected to the grid due to the scattered nature of these rural communities. As a result, many private companies in the energy business may find it unprofitable to invest in building the grid infrastructure. As such, these communities rely on government or donors to build this infrastructure which may take years to construct and it requires a lot of investment because the grid has to be extended at long distances with scattered households. Renewable energy resources come in handy in such a context. Consequently, many governments and donor programs such as the World Bank targets these rural communities with clean energy solutions such as solar photovoltaics (PV). For instance, the World Bank has conducted various studies and implemented many programs for rural electrification using solar photovoltaics for years.
  3. The policy and regulatory framework for renewable energy technologies vary from one country to another. For instance, some countries don’t have the net-metering policy—an arrangement for grid-connected solar photovoltaics that allows the solar host to obtain credit towards their electric bill by installing a bi-directional power meter. There are much other policy and regulatory issues that vary in from the country to country.
  4. Renewable energy technologies have different characteristics that enable them to fit in different settings based on affordability, site-specific parameters, design, and energy requirements in question. For instance, because of the intermittent nature of solar/wind and perhaps not connected to the grid; a battery energy storage system may be needed in some cases.
  5. The socioeconomic factors also determine the various types of renewable energy resources or sustainable technology that can be implemented, for instance, to solve lighting and cooking issues using clean technologies:
      – Solar PV comes with different solar technologies to solve lighting and other energy needs.

      – Biofuels including biodiesel and bioethanol provide cooking energy solutions and other clean energy solutions such as for productive use and agriculture. For instance, using sustainable biofuels to power gen-sets for pumping water or irrigation.

      – Wind-powered solutions for residential, commercial and farms in the rural areas.

      – Energy efficiency solutions for homes and commercial places.

Lithium-ion batteries for your solar PV system

Lithium-ion batteries are now widely used in very many applications and hence are becoming an everyday part of our lives. These applications include but not limited to laptops, electric vehicles to stationary and building-sized applications. This rapid change has been enabled by the reducing price of lithium-ion batteries which has dropped more than 70% between 2010 and 2016. 

Battery electricity storage (BES) using lithium-ion batteries seem to have a similar story of price reduction just like solar photovoltaics (PV) which dropped in price with over 60% in the last decade. As a result, solar + storage is now a common product sold to businesses and homes by solar companies such as Tesla that are able to provide the Tesla power wall and solar panels. Other quality solar battery power systems offering reasonable prices are the Enphase AC Battery and SonnenBatterie Eco.

The lithium-ion batteries are the new generation of battery energy storage advancing from the traditional lead-acid based deep cycle battery technology. Lead-acid batteries are widely used in many sectors because they cost less upfront, but they have a shorter lifespan and require regular maintenance to keep them running properly unlike lithium-ion batteries which are more expensive up front, but maintenance-free and have a longer lifespan. According to EnergySage, a lead-acid battery system cost a few hundred or thousands less than a similarly sized lithium-ion setup. Lithium-ion batteries for solar power systems can cost anywhere from $5000 to $15000 including installation and this is dependent on the size of the PV system.

Based on chemistry there are various types of lithium-ion for battery electricity storage that are produced by different battery manufacturers such as Discover, SimpliPhi, etc. The term “lithium-ion” refers not to a single electrochemical couple but to a wide array of different chemistries, all of which are characterized by the transfer of lithium ions between the electrodes during the charge and discharge reactions. Li-ion cells do not contain metallic lithium; rather, the ions are inserted into the structure of other materials, such as lithiated metal oxides or phosphates in the positive electrode (cathode) and carbon (typically graphite) or lithium titanate in the negative (anode). Lithium-ion chemistry combinations include Lithium Ferro Phosphate (LFP); nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC);lithium manganese oxide (LMO ), nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (NCA) and lithium titanate (LTO). Generally, the various material combinations or chemistry of lithium-ion batteries yield unique performance cost and safety characteristics.

The different chemistries allow for battery energy storage optimization to meet various performance and operational objectives (IRENA, 2017). As such, different electrode or electrolyte selections may be used to design for different applications where reduced costs or high power or high density is required. For instance, lithium titanate (LTO) batteries have very good thermal stability, long cycle life-time, high rate discharge capability and has no solid electrolyte interphase issues (IRENA, 2017). However, LTO batteries will be cost-prohibitive because of the high cost of titanium and will have reduced cell voltage and low energy density compared to lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide which can be tailored for high power or high energy stable thermal profile and can operate at high voltage.

EnergySage Buyer’s Guide for Solar Batteries

EnergySage has prepared a comprehensive solar batteries guide where consumers can browse hundreds of solar batteries from top manufacturers around the world. Solar batteries can provide numerous benefits, especially for property owners in areas that experience demand or time-of-use charges or where net-metering policies are limited in terms of compensation from the grid. Essentially, electricity demand tracks the total amount of energy that is being consumed at a given time. The more devices using electricity at the same time, the higher the customer’s demand charge.

As such, solar batteries can reduce demand charges and provide resiliency, while adding value to solar installations at the same time. When you install a solar battery alongside a solar panel system, you can store extra solar electricity produced by your panels for later use after the sun goes down. Learn more about other aspects of going solar such as obtaining solar quotes and using the EnergySage buyer’s guide for solar panels, solar batteries, and solar inverters. See this solar resource for more details.


Reference:

IRENA (2017), Electricity Storage and Renewables: Costs and Markets to 2030, International Renewable Energy Agency.

Why energy storage systems make sense for renewables

energy storage systems

Energy storage systems enable the ability to store excess renewable electricity for use at a later date. For instance, when it comes to solar power, energy storage is used within off-grid or hybrid solar power systems, which require power to be used at night when there is no sunlight or as a backup solution during power outages.
There are various technologies for energy storage depending on how energy is stored for later use, including but not limited to pumped-hydro, compressed air, flywheels, batteries, and thermal energy storage. In addition, new energy storage technologies are currently under development such as flow batteries, supercapacitors, and superconducting magnetic energy storage. You can learn more about these energy storage systems at EPA.gov.

Batteries as energy storage technologies are becoming increasingly important to the power industry and for powering electric vehicles. One of the batteries that have become widely used is the lithium-ion battery which has been implemented in many locations, especially in the USA. The Tesla Gigafactory is one example where batteries are produced for energy storage systems for solar PV systems and electric vehicles. As such, solar produces clean energy during the day and Tesla’s Powerwall can store energy to power your home at night or during an outage.

When it comes to batteries, there are various types of battery storage systems that use different technologies based on chemistry that enables energy storage capability. For instance, solar batteries used to store excess solar power include four (4) types of batteries, including AGM, GEL, Flooded, and Lithium-ion batteries. These solar batteries use different chemistry or chemical composition to enable energy storage capability. For example, lithium-ion batteries as a group have the advantage of high specific energy as well as high energy and power density relative to other battery technologies because of their chemistry. Lithium-ion batteries usually have a cathode made of a lithium metal oxide, while the anode is often made of graphite.

The advantages of Li-Ion batteries are that they last longer, are more efficient, have a greater energy density, and require no maintenance compared to traditional lead-acid batteries. Great applications for li-ion batteries include backup energy storage for residential and commercial places. Lithium-ion batteries are also used by installers and power utilities to ensure a long-term, hassle-free, emergency backup power supply. In general, energy storage has become an important component for variable renewables such as solar and wind to enable excess power to be stored in batteries when solar or wind generation is high to be later used when power generation is low.

Against this background, this blog attempts to capture about four (4) reasons why energy storage systems are increasingly used with renewable energy systems:

energy storage systems

1. The reducing cost of energy storage systems and the increasing demand of variable renewable energy

    Because of the increasing demand of energy storage technologies, their cost has been falling rapidly and by the year 2030, IRENA estimates that the installed cost of battery storage systems could fall by over 50%. The declining cost in the wind and solar and the increased focus on adding renewables to the grid is driving the interest to lower the cost of energy storage. For instance, the price of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by about 80% over the last five years according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) enabling the integration of storage into solar power systems. Also, there has been a tremendous increase in the amount of energy storage that is been deployed. A market research firm, Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables has forecast that energy storage systems will increase to top 5.4 gigawatts and the market value is forecast to increase from $720 million today to $5.1 billion in 2024.

    energy storage systems

    2. To increase solar and wind penetration in the grid

      With the increasing penetration of renewable energy into the grid, energy storage has become an important component for variable renewables such as wind and solar. Utilities are using energy storage systems to counter the intermittent nature of variable renewable energy. Energy storage systems store excess electricity during off-peak periods and use it when the demand for electricity is high. Using energy storage systems help to stabilize the grid with the increasing penetration of variable renewable energy.

      3. To reduce time of use (TOU) charges and other charges

        Energy storage for renewable energy consumers can help to save more energy when the utility bill charges such as consumption, demand, and time of use (TOU) charges are well applied and understood. Energy storage systems can help to reduce demand charges by charging for instance batteries when the demand at the facility is low and discharging when the demand at the facility is peaking or high i.e. applying peak saving. Also, energy storage can reduce TOU charges by charging when the energy cost is low (e.g. in the middle of the night) and discharging when the energy cost is high (e.g. late afternoon). By reducing demand charges and TOUs, renewable energy consumers can reduce their utility bills significantly by charging and discharging when it is needed.

        4. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel sourced electricity

          energy storage systems
          Energy storage can allow renewable energy consumers to displace more fossil fuel sourced electricity by storing any excess power generated during the day in the case of solar power and discharging during peak hours when it is highly needed. New energy storage systems can allow storage of electricity generated from wind and solar on shorter time frames to smooth variability, and on longer cycles to replace even more fossil fuels. For instance, new energy storage systems like flow batteries have relatively little degradation of their fluids or electrolyte solutions giving them longer charge-discharge cycles and longer life spans. They can also be scaled to match growing needs relatively by increasing the amount of fluid in the tanks. As such, reducing electricity sourced from fossil-fuels or reducing fossil fuel dependence will eventually help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

          Solar batteries for your-solar PV system

          Why solar batteries?

          solar batteryA battery is a device that stores chemical energy and converts it to electricity through the electrochemistry process. A battery can be made up of one or several electrochemical cells. Each electrochemical cell consists of two electrodes separated by an electrolyte allowing the flow of electrons between the two electrodes and electricity is produced. Generally, batteries store energy for later use and can have many applications such as powering equipment or gadgets not connected to the grid. Also, solar batteries are used to store power from solar panels for later use perhaps at night when there is no sunshine or during cloudy days when less power is generated by solar panels.

          What are solar panel batteries?

          Solar batteries are devices that are built using the electrochemistry technology and contain electrochemical cells that are connected in series with 2 electrodes immersed in the electrolyte solution and a circuit formed between the electrode and the electrolyte to produce an electrical current. The electrochemical cells are the ones that convert chemical energy into electrical energy.  There are several types of solar batteries that are used in connections to store electricity that is tapped from the solar system. However, the most common solar batteries include the lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries.

          1. Lead-acid batteries generally used in motor vehicles and are low-cost compared to all other types. They are generally bulky but have a relatively large power due to their ability to supply high surge currents considering their volume and relative weight.
          2. Lithium-ion batteries are known for their best energy density and a very slow loss of charge when not in use and commonly used for portable electronics such as cellphones and electric vehicles. A popular example is Tesla Powerwall.

          solar batteryWhen are solar panel batteries needed?

          Solar batteries are useful to store excess electricity for your solar photovoltaic system in cases where:

          1. You want to supplement power from the grid with your solar power to reduce electricity costs.
          2. You are completely not connected to the grid and you use solar panel batteries’ to store electricity for later use.
          1. Supplementing your grid-connected solar power system with batteries:

          Through net-metering, a solar power system can be connected to the grid to help feed excess electricity to the grid or draw it to supplement your energy demand. Feeding excess electricity to the grid through net-metering comes with incentives such as reduced utility bills. However, in areas where net metering policies either don’t exist or are limited, adopting solar batteries can help to store excess electricity and use it when it is much economical to do so.

          electric gridAlso, depending on the type of electricity rate structure including time-of-use (TOU) rates as well as demand charges, solar batteries can be used to store electricity to reduce these utility charges. As such, solar batteries will be useful to help to reduce your electricity bill when you understand your TOU and demand charges. TOU rates approach allows utility companies to charge different rates for electricity, where the cost of energy varies based on the time of day it is consumed.

          On the other hand, the demand charge is set based upon your maximum hourly power requirement and hence the best way to decrease your electric bill when energy demand is factored in is to decrease your electric bill all at once. As such, utilizing solar batteries will help to lower your overall energy demand thus reducing your energy demand charges as well as high TOU rates. For instance, you can use electricity stored in the solar batteries during high TOU rates and consequently reduce your utility bill.

          2. Areas not connected to the grid.

          Areas not connected to the grid can benefit a lot from solar power. However, since there is no sunshine at night, you will need solar batteries to store excess electricity produced during the day for later use at night when it is extremely needed for lighting and other uses. About 1.1 billion people around the world still lack electricity and solar-powered mini-grids are well-suited in remote areas as it is much affordable and faster to electrify these areas using renewables than extending the main grid. As such, solar batteries will be needed to help store excess power produced by solar panels during the day and use it at night when it is needed.

          How much do solar batteries cost

          Just like solar panels, upfront costs of solar batteries depend on the make and model and there are various types and models of solar batteries in the market today. According to EnergySage, solar batteries’ cost before installation range between $5,000 to $7,000 or from $400 dollars per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to $750/kWh. This cost does not include the cost of the installation which is done by a licensed electrician. For instance, the 13.5-kilowatt-hour (kWh) Tesla Powerwall 2.0 is priced at $6,700 but has a built-in inverter while the LG’s 9.3kWh Chem RESU battery does not have a built-in inverter and cost about $6,000 to $7,000. However, as mentioned before will vary based on how many solar batteries are needed, the make, and the model of the solar battery. At EnergySage, you can get solar battery quotes from different vendors and compare their different prices.

          The EnergySage Solar Batteries Buyer’s Guidesolar batteries

          The EnergySage has developed a comprehensive classification system where users can browse and compare several solar batteries’ to evaluate their quality ratings based on their most important aspects such as cost, capacity, power, round-trip efficiency, degradation rate, and warranty.

          This classification system captures various battery technical specifications such as performance, durability, warranty, and overall quality, and using this system, the EnergySage has grouped different solar batteries into five different classifications i.e. Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good and Excellent. EnergySage solar batteries buyer’s guide has captured several solar batteries from different top manufacturers and you can get price quotes here.

          The EnergySage platform is a good starting point to assist you with your solar buying decision, however, it will take a licensed solar installer to make a good assessment of your household or business. In particular, a solar installer will assess your power project requirements, your energy requirements to help you decide on your solar panel and battery requirements.

          Get started with a solar panel cost calculator from the EnergySage to estimate your solar panel requirements and get more advice about your battery requirements based on your energy profile or consumption.