As Old Energy wails and thrashes against the growing numbers of Australians installing solar panels, it best be careful about how it deals with these savvy households – the buzz is building with regard to batteries for home solar installations.
The next big thing is residential solar is energy storage – and we’ve covered a few products to hit the market reasonably soon.
Back in June, Hanwha SolarOne announced a strategic partnership to develop a complete solar power and energy storage system for the residential market. Kyocera has said it will incorporate lithium-ion batteries into energy storage for home solar power systems. Panasonic Corporation has also announced its own lithium-ion battery system for residential applications. Other manufacturers are eyeing this potentially massive market too.
As with any new technology, initially these battery systems will be expensive – but as we saw with solar panels, prices can drop dramatically and quickly.
The evolution and uptake of battery technologies such as LiFePO4 (lithium iron phosphate) is picking up pace as prices drop, to the point these batteries are already being trialed by some pioneering off-gridders in Australia. LiFePO4 batteries are lighter, smaller and offer a far longer lifespan than traditional deep cycle batteries.
If Big Energy is worried about the impact solar is having on their bottom line now, imagine how it will be if through continued draconian policies or pitiful feed in tariffs households start dropping off the mains grid altogether in their thousands in the not-too-distant future.
But a major switch to home energy storage doesn’t have to be an “us vs. them” situation either – there are opportunities for Big Energy to work with these savvy households to everyone’s benefit.
According to RenewEconomy’s Giles Parkinson, Tru Energy has already hinted to this. In the future, we could see a situation where solar households are exporting electricity to the mains grid from their battery banks during peak periods when wholesale electricity prices can cost thousands of dollars per megawatt hour. This is assuming households are suitably recompensed for their contribution of high value electricity of course – if not, those households will simply hold onto their energy gold for self-consumption.
The prospect of cheap battery storage systems is something else those installing solar panels now can look forward to in the future to help further rein in electricity bills – or perhaps even wave bye-bye to the mains grid altogether.