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When it comes to solar energy systems, the first thing that comes to mind is solar panels. These glistening sheets of semiconductor cells are responsible for converting the photons carried in ordinary sunlight into a clean and renewable energy source that powers homes, businesses, and even equipment.
But there is more to the solar energy story than just the panels; there are also solar batteries. However, what exactly is a solar battery?
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What Is a Solar Battery?
A solar battery is an array of solar cells present in a device that converts solar radiation from the sun into electricity.
Solar batteries can transform the power-producing capacity of solar panels into a complete energy solution. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about solar batteries, including why your solar energy system may be incomplete without them and how they can represent energy independence for those seeking to become completely untethered from the grid.
If you think about a solar lamp and how the panels gather a charge from the sun, you have an idea of what a solar battery is. These batteries gather all the solar energy from the sun to produce a charge that can be used for electricity.
A solar battery serves two primary purposes. first to store excess energy that is not going to be immediately used after it is made from the solar panels. Secondly, solar batteries are used to disburse the power that it produces in times of need.
This means that instead of just being used in power outages, solar batteries can become the main source of energy for companies and houses in place of using electricity that is gathered from electrical power plants.
How is Solar Transferred into Energy?
The concept behind a solar battery is fairly simple. Solar panels convert photons that are carried by sunlight into electricity. The amount of power that an array of solar panels is capable of producing depends on a variety of factors such as the size and number of solar panels, weather and climate conditions, and of course, the amount of electricity that is consumed on a regular basis.
Basically, if your solar panels are producing more electricity than you are using, this excess power is typically re-directed back to the utility grid you are connected to, or it simply goes unused. Solar batteries enable you to bank any unused electricity and store it for future use. Thus, solar batteries can serve the dual purpose of storing power for a rainy day and providing electricity when it is needed.
Do I Need Solar Batteries?
The decision to go solar can be based on a variety of factors. For some people, solar energy is the only means of powering basic amenities because tying into the utility grid is not an option. For others, solar power boils down to pure economics because this form of energy is cheaper than paying monthly utility bills. And for others still, solar energy is a way to take a real-life stance on environmental issues.
Whatever the rationale for having a solar energy system may be, there are plenty of reasons to consider taking the next step and adding solar batteries to the mix. These include:
- If tying into a utility grid is not an option (as is sometimes the case for remote locations) then adding solar batteries to your system can provide reserve electricity when energy output from solar panels is reduced due to weather conditions
- Solar batteries can also provide precious peace of mind for people who live in areas prone to frequent or lengthy power outages by storing several days’ worth of electricity to keep appliances, medical equipment, and other necessities running
- Rather than paying peak usage rates for electricity (which, for many utilities, runs from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm), you can provide for your energy needs with cheaper power from your own solar batteries
- If complete energy independence is important to you, then solar batteries are one of the best ways to accomplish this goal by becoming completely self-reliant in terms of producing and sourcing electricity
Because energy needs vary from one household to the next, there can be no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to adding solar batteries to your system. Fortunately, solar batteries can be configured in a variety of ways to suit a wide range of energy requirements.
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What Are the Different Types of Solar Batteries?
The technology behind solar energy is constantly evolving and systems are becoming more efficient and cost-effective. This is certainly true when it comes to solar batteries, and there are several types to choose from, each with its advantages and disadvantages. These are the primary types of solar batteries that can be found on the market today:
- Lithium-ion – although more expensive than other types of solar batteries, lithium-ion is also a newer technology with a smaller battery size and more efficient charging and discharging capabilities and is well-suited for owners of solar energy systems who are in it for the long haul
- Lead-acid – this is the tried-and-true workhorse of solar batteries and lead-acid batteries remain a popular option for many home solar weed edgy systems because they represent a good combination of reliability and affordability
- Nickel-cadmium – nickel-cadmium batteries are known for being able to withstand extreme conditions and are therefore more likely to be found in the aviation and manufacturing sectors than in a residential solar application
- Flow – this is the least common type of solar battery for homes because flow batteries tend to be considerably large in size due to the fact that they consist of large chambers of electrolyte-rich fluids
Choosing the right type of solar battery for your system is a matter of matching your energy needs with your long-term goals. For instance, if complete energy independence is what you are seeking, then lithium-ion may be the way to go. If saving a little money on electricity and having reserve power for emergency situations is what you are after, then lead-acid batteries may be a more affordable option for you.
How Long Will Solar Batteries Last?
Making an informed decision about whether or not to add batteries to your solar energy system means carefully considering several key factors, one of which is how long you can expect solar batteries to last.
Compared to solar panels, which typically have a service life of 20 to 30 years, the life expectancy of solar batteries is generally shorter. Depending on the type of battery (e.g., lithium-ion or lead-acid), the level of energy consumption, and other factors, you can expect solar batteries to last anywhere from 5 to 15 years.
The decision to go solar is a way of achieving energy independence and self-reliance apart from utilities. Solar panels can provide sufficient electricity output to keep appliances running and the lights on but when conditions falter, the power can stop flowing. Solar batteries can prevent this from happening and provide a steady source of electricity no matter the time of day or the weather conditions.