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New lithium battery technology to store energy from solar PV panels

Posted by Gordon Glass on 13 May 2015 at 10:30 am

A houseowner in Lewes has become one of the first in the area to use state-of-the-art lithium battery technology to store energy from solar PV panels.

Jill Goulder has installed a lithium battery storage system linked to her solar PV panels. These recharge during sunlight hours and provide power in the evenings – very useful for households who use most of their electricity outside sunlight hours.

The system switches seamlessly between battery and mains supply as needed; a good system will cover a household’s normal needs, though major appliances such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners drain the batteries rapidly and will need mains top-up.

Jill says "Lithium batteries are the new generation of energy storage, and they’re decreasing in price.  My electricity bills are already very low, but I liked the idea of using all the electricity that I generate with my solar PV panels; and it gives me supply security in case of the mains power cuts."

The system can be monitored online by the user on their own computer, with graphics showing consumption and battery usage throughout the day.

The system is housed in a blue metal box about the size of an airline carry-on bag, bolted to a wall, for example in an attic. The installed price for a small-to-medium system is likely to be £4,000 - £8,000, so it is not for everyone, though it’s becoming a favoured investment for householders with solar PV panels who are looking to take the next energy reduction step. Jill thinks that sooner or later Britain will follow Germany’s lead in providing a subsidy for householders investing in these systems.

Importantly, this particular system will also work in a power cut. Jill comments "I do know that some companies are selling systems that don’t work during a power cut (and unscrupulously not telling customers), but it was a no-brainer for me to have that – it was a major factor in buying it, as outages are increasing."

Jill adds "Do use a reputable supplier for your installation – there are cold callers in this area offering quick sign deals that are less good value than they seem; and check too that the system you buy will continue to work during a power cut. Analyse your electricity use carefully beforehand: when are your peak times for using electricity each day, and can you install more energy efficient appliances or LED lighting? And ask around for advice – in Lewes the Transition Town Lewes Energy Group will be able to help you."

Jill’s installation is a Victron EcoMulti Hub-2 (2.3kWh storage, 3kVA inverter) installed by Bright Green Energy Ltd of Beckenham, linked to her 1.29kWp solar PV system.  

The appearance of Tesla's new battery solution we wrote about here has not gone unnoticed by Jill. She comments "I'm simply boggled at seeing front page stories last week in the UK about Tesla unveiling magical new technology which would allow you to store the energy from your solar panels. Hello, storage batteries have been around for 200 years... Certainly lithium is a new, better technology, but Tesla certainly aren’t the first by a long mile."

On the plus side, she says "It all helps generally in focusing on storage. As you doubtless know, some sunny countries are pressing solar panel owners to invest in storage as the daily surge into the grid from the panels are causing problems!"

Jill Goulder is an archaeologist and also a SuperHomer. Jill has refurbished her Victorian terraced cottage and achieved a radical 61% carbon saving. See Jill’s SuperHomes page for more about her continuing house improvements including this latest addition of lithium battery technology.

 

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About the author: Gordon Glass is the online marketing manager of YouGen and SuperHomes.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

8 comments - read them below or add one

GBmac04

GBmac04Comment left on: 20 November 2017 at 4:40 pm

One of the least expensive ways to store electrical power is in water.

I have a 4Kw solar panel system but most days there is a surplus of power. I had already installed a "Solar Boost" device which detects when spare power is available and switches on my imersion heater. 2 problems:

The immersion heater is at the top of the tank so doesn't heat the whole tank of water.

Still loads of spare power during the day.

Solution was to install another hot water tank in series with the existing one. The immersion heater is fitted at the bottom of this tank so on a good day the whole tank of water gets heated and no gas is used. During the winter the hot water at least is pre-heated so overall, this system saves quite a lot of GAS

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JG

JGComment left on: 5 July 2016 at 1:22 pm

A 2016 update from me, the owner of the system described in this post: my lithium storage battery system is now maintained by Sunstore of Worthing (http://www.sunstore.co.uk/), who are very responsive and professional.  

And prices are going down - typical cost for a small-to-medium installation is now £3-6,000. So that's still a lot of money, but my investment decision wasn't made on pure financial grounds: as well as security in mains outages, I felt good about making my small contribution to 'saving the planet' and all that.  A personal decision for everyone.

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JG

JGComment left on: 20 June 2015 at 11:09 am

Hello Eleanor - yes, I was a beginner too, so I do understand how difficult it is!  

One thing that I can say is that normal-size battery storage systems can't accommodate high loads (electric cookers, washing-machines etc), and my system seems to switch to grid electricity when I put something like that on, presumably to protect the batteries from overload.  But as I don't use high-wattage appliances much, my electricity use is covered most of the time.

Good luck!

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ele

eleComment left on: 15 June 2015 at 3:24 pm

Hi

I follow all this technology and would be grateful for done help and ideas as to what to do next. Last summer we had a 4KW Solar panel system installed and are a pretty average electricity usage household, around 3800 kW but in less that a year of solar generation gave already generated more than our requirement. As we are out most of the day and have timers and energy efficient appliances, led lightbulbs etc we do try and use much of the energy generated as possible, but our problem lies at the weekend and in the winter when our usage is higher over short periods of time over the weekend.

We were wondering whether to look into battery storage and if the storage would be able to cope with tumble dryer, washing machine etc that we may use more of in the winter. We don't really get power cuts, a shop next door seem to have a seperate supply and occasionally where there has been a power cut we gave been on at the same time as the shop, while the rest of the road are still disconnected. We don't really know where to start looking, have been to nanny exhibitions and asked lots of questions but no one seems to be able to answer our specific questions. We would be grateful for anybody's help and assistance and also if battery storage was something worth looking at, a good installer in the south of England.

thanks

eleanor

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richmc

richmcComment left on: 30 May 2015 at 2:19 pm

I've just had a battery system installed by Wattstor. It's Victron based with 6Kwh of battery available power (they actually supply 12Kwh worth of batteries so are never deep discharged thus compromising the life of the batteries, the whole system has a 5 year warranty and the batteries can have that extended to 10 years. My thoughts were that in 5-10 years techknology will have advanced and costs will have fallen so I didn't opt for the extention. My daily electricity consumption had dropped by 86% so I am hopeing to find a zero standing charge tarrif. The system was subject to a local speacial offer so it came in at £3750, so for me it was time to go for it.

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Greenlands

GreenlandsComment left on: 28 May 2015 at 10:52 pm

I agree with Fred.  We use about 7-8 kw hrs on average overnight in May  so would need about 8 KW hrs worth of battery plus system costing in the region of £4000- £6000.  We might save a little during the day as well but normally our present solar panels meet most of the daytime requirements

To go ahead with batteries to save say 10 KW hours per day would make no economic sense at all ( and we would still be drawing power from the Grid on bad days or when we have overloads )

 

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JG

JGComment left on: 16 May 2015 at 12:52 pm

I'm the SuperHomer whose installation is mentioned above - so hello, everyone.  I wanted to respond to Fred1's reasonable comment - and I'm with him on looking forward to further step changes in storage technology: not enough of a spotlight has been shone on storage as opposed to generation technology. You might like to look at a brief page describing my thought-processes in deciding to invest in battery storage: http://www.transitiontownlewes.org/assets/files/LEOH/Press-release-batteries-V4.pdf.  I'd been waiting for lithium technology to 'settle in' before investing (I used to co-own an off-grid house with a generator and a wind-generator, so I knew all about lead-acid batteries), and for the price to start dropping; then, when I had a windfall legacy I decided to go for it.  As described in the link above,  I liked the idea of using all the electricity that I generate with my solar PV panels, and it gives me supply security in case of the mains power-cuts that we increasingly get at times here.  I can keep at least my wifi router going, and some LED lights and perhaps the gas CH pump; and I can run an extension lead with an LED lamp to the house next door for my elderly neighbour.  I also wanted to be a beacon for the new technology, through Lewes Eco Open Houses weekend (www.lewesecoopenhouses.org.uk) and Superhomes.  I paid £4,200 for my smallish system (I have 6 solar PV panels, and am a low user of electricity); in my particular circumstances I'm not going to get payback any time soon, but that wasn't my primary aim. I hope this helps!  Please keep an eye on the Eco Open Houses website, which will in due course give you a date in March 2016 for the next open weekend, and I do hope that you'll visit then.

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Fred1

Fred1Comment left on: 16 May 2015 at 4:48 am

It does not seem to make sense to store a few kWh , worth less than £1 in a £4,000 to £8,000 bucket which has a life of a few years....

I look forward to a step change in storage technology to make it worth while ....

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