Can we store energy generated from our solar panels?

Currently in the UK owners of homes with solar panels can save money on their electricity and can sell surplus power back to the national grid, using a solar feed-in tariff. Customers can then buy back electricity when needed (although at a higher rate than they sold it for). Legislation may be changing in 2016 as the government are proposing an 87% decrease in solar power feed-in tariffs.

The amount of energy used in British homes peaks in the mornings and evenings. Being able to store some of the power that is generated by solar panels during the sunniest part of the day could allow homeowners with solar panels to save money by using stored solar energy at the busiest times of day when the rate for electricity from the grid is highest.

electricity consumption cycle vs solar electricity production cycle

Tesla Motors is one company interested in harnessing the potential of storing solar-generated energy. Tesla Motors is probably best known for developing a fully electric sports car – the Tesla Roadster - that combines power and performance with low cost running. More recently the company, led by its CEO Elon Musk, have also branched into an area which is of interest to solar-panel owners. In 2015 Tesla launched a lithium battery “Powerwall“, which is a wall-mountable battery that can store energy generated by solar panels.

Powerwall batteries are designed to store up to 10kWh, enough to power most homes during the peak evening hours, so that reserves can be drawn when sunlight is low and the power tariff is higher. By storing surplus power and using it when purchasing from the grid would be required, the Powerwall offers financial benefits to people using solar panels. It is also easy to install, requires no maintenance, links up to solar panels and comes with a 10 year guarantee. The product was launched in the US at around $3000, and Tesla are taking reservations in the UK for delivery and installation early in 2016.

Powerwall is not the only solar-linked battery to be developed in what is likely to become an expanding and competitive market. According to Climate Council figures, battery prices have dropped by 14% on average every year from 2007-2014. Hopefully the continued development of batteries to store solar energy will offer both an economical and environmentally sustainable option for people looking to benefit from solar panels!