Solar Energy Storage Solutions for Businesses

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Explore solar energy storage solutions for businesses, offering sustainable and efficient power management for a greener future.

Solar Energy Storage Solutions for Businesses

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The growth of the market for solar energy is having a revolutionary effect on how we do business. Research from IBIS has shown that the number of new installations grew by more than 5% during 2023 compared to the previous year. 

But capturing the energy from the sun’s rays is only part of the challenge for businesses that transition to solar. Once you’ve got it, you need to put it somewhere, but there is an answer to that dilemma. The sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day, and solar energy storage solutions can transform your energy use by storing it to use at night or when the sun isn’t shining quite so brightly. At present, the most popular, go-to solar energy storage is battery storage.

The Benefits of Solar Battery Storage for Businesses

Solar battery storage will add to the upfront cost of your installation, but it comes with many benefits: 

Cost Savings on Energy Bills

The more energy you can store in batteries, the less you’ll need to take from the National Grid, and this can lead to…

Increased Energy Independence

The more of your own energy your business produces and stores itself, the less of a hostage of fortune to volatile price changes in the wholesale gas and coal markets. 

Reduction in Carbon Footprint

As with all renewable energy sources, switching to solar will reduce your carbon footprint. According to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), the carbon footprint of rooftop solar panels is approximately 12 times less than natural gas and 20 times less than coal, in terms of CO2 emissions per kWh of electricity generated.

Emergency Backup Power

Battery storage is an excellent way of ensuring that you always have power that can be used as a backup. 

Peak Shaving and Load Shifting

These two terms often come bundled together because they both refer to the storing of electricity to use at other times, but they have different meanings. Peak shaving lessens the energy demand at peak times, usually through energy storage or on-site generation. In other words, peak shaving cuts off the tops of the demand peaks. Whereas load shifting redistributes energy demand from peak times to off-peak times.

Scalability

One of the big advantages of using solar panels is that should your business grow, the size of your panel array can grow with it. If you run out of room on the roof, ground-positioned panels can also be installed, if that’s a viable option. 

Uninterrupted Power Supply

One common concern with solar power is that it will only be able to supply electricity while the weather is sunny. This isn’t the case, and battery storage allows for electricity to continue to be used during night-time hours. 

Earning Money Through Providing Grid Services

If you produce more electricity than you need, battery storage can help you to earn it too. The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) launched on the 1st of January 2020 as a government-backed initiative. The SEG requires some electricity suppliers, known as SEG Licensees, to pay small-scale generators, known as SEG Generators, for low-carbon electricity which they export back to the National Grid, providing certain criteria are met.  

Types of Solar Battery Storage Systems

There are four main types of solar battery storage system: 

Lead-Acid

Lead-acid batteries have been in use for decades and are one of the most common types of battery used in automotive and industrial applications. They have a low energy density (meaning they cannot hold much energy per kg of weight), but remain both cost-effective and reliable and thus have become a common choice for use in solar setups.

Lead-acid batteries come in both flooded and sealed varieties and can be classified as either shallow cycle or deep cycle depending on the intended function and safe depth of discharge (DOD). Recent technological advancements have improved the lifespan of these batteries and lead-acid continues to be a viable option.

Lithium-Ion

The technology behind lithium-ion batteries is much newer than that of other battery types. Lithium-ion batteries have a high energy density and offer a smaller, lighter and more efficient option. They allow the user to access more of the energy stored within the battery before needing to be recharged.

The major drawback of lithium-ion batteries is the significantly higher cost. If improperly installed lithium-ion batteries also have the potential to catch fire due to an effect called thermal runaway.

Nickel-Cadmium

Nickel-cadmium batteries are most popular in airline and industrial applications due to their high durability and unique ability to function at extreme temperatures. Nickel-cadmium batteries also require relatively low amounts of maintenance when compared to other battery types. Unfortunately, cadmium is a highly toxic element that, if not disposed of properly, can have a significant negative impact on our environment.

Flow

Flow batteries depend on chemical reactions. Energy is reproduced by liquid-containing electrolytes flowing between two chambers within the battery. Though flow batteries offer high efficiency, with a depth of discharge of 100%, they have a low energy density, meaning the tanks containing the electrolyte liquid must be quite large to store a significant amount of energy. This size makes them a costly and impractical option for smaller spaces. Flow batteries are much better suited to larger spaces and applications.

How to Choose the Right Solar Battery Storage for Your Business

The size of solar battery storage required differs for each installation. The storage size of the battery, known as its capacity, is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). A 20kWh battery, at maximum charge, can theoretically provide 2kW of power for ten hours.

However, it’s important to note that fully discharging solar batteries should be avoided to prevent significantly shortening the battery’s lifespan. The maximum capacity recommended by the battery manufacturer is typically about 90% of the overall capacity for a lithium-ion battery. This figure is referred to as ‘usable capacity’.

When choosing a solar PV battery for your business, consider the power output. Power output, measured in kilowatts (kW), determines how quickly the battery can deliver its stored electricity. The peak power output must exceed the power required in the intended use of the battery. Undercharging your battery is also detrimental to the health of your solar battery. Avoid choosing excessive battery storage capacity, as this can also reduce the battery lifespan.

What Size Solar Battery Storage Do I Need for My Business?

The capacity of your solar battery needs to work in the context of the rest of your solar array. Factors to consider include the panel output of your solar panels, the number and the angle and direction of them, your business’s location, and both your peak and off-peak business energy consumption. 

What Space Requirements Are There for Commercial Solar Battery Installations?

The space requirements for commercial solar battery installations vary depending on the size of the battery system, the type of battery you choose and the location of the installation. A good rule of thumb is that you need about a square foot of space for every kilowatt of battery capacity. So, a 100kWh battery system would require about 100 square feet of space.

What is the Most Efficient Solar Battery Storage System Available in the UK?

Lithium-ion Solar Batteries are both compact and powerful, making them perfect to power premises with high energy demands but a small amount of available space. Additionally, they are also low maintenance and have a high percentage when it comes to depth of discharge. 

What is the Best Way to Store Batteries for Commercial Use?

For optimal storage of commercial storage batteries, maintain them in a cool, dry environment and at a recommended state of charge. Regular maintenance checks are crucial to ensure safety and efficiency

How Long Will a Solar Battery Last?

This is dependent upon several different variables, but the average lifespan for a commercial solar battery should be somewhere between five and fifteen years. Among the factors influencing this longevity are its Depth of Discharge, where its installed and how many cycles it can run.  

What is the Typical Payback Period for Commercial Solar Storage in the UK?

With available incentives, payback periods for commercial storage can be as little as 5-10 years. This depends on energy usage, tariff rates, investment tax breaks and export payments.

Should I Wait for Technology to Improve Before I Invest in Solar Battery Storage?

At this point, there is no benefit since solar panels are already a mature technology. There are no breakthroughs for solar just around the corner that will make it substantially more cost-effective for users in the future.

How Much Upfront Investment Is Needed for a Solar Battery Storage System?

This depends on several factors, including the type of battery you want to use and the size of your business. On average, it’s reasonable to work to the principle of £1,000-£1,500 per kWh that you wish to produce.  

Financing and Incentives

Battery storage units can be expensive, but there are numerous grants, incentives and financing options for them. Grants and incentives can come from many different sources, from tax breaks to grants for their installation for SMEs. It’s worth carefully checking what’s available when you first start, and don’t forget; schemes can be run both locally and nationally. 

The incentives and grants that have been targeted at renewable energy in recent years are proof of the urgency of the situation. We have to wean ourselves off the dependency on fossil fuels that we’ve developed since the industrial revolution started, two centuries ago. Solar panels are an excellent way for your business to contribute to that transition, but it’s not only that; they make excellent business sense as well. Battery storage allows your business to maximise your returns from your investment in solar. Investing in storage would be a similarly wise investment. 

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