In many residential solar installations, energy storage serves as a major factor in the overall system strategy. In many installations still connected to the municipal electrical grid, consumers have the option of Net Metering. This system sends surplus solar energy gathered from the installation’s photovoltaic cells and transfers it to local power plants, where it is redistributed as needed to the rest of the power network.
In the case that inclement weather or other factors prevent the collection of sufficient solar energy for the home, energy from the grid transfers back to the home via traditional means, causing no power disruption. Annually, total inbound and outbound energy costs are calculated, and often, the consumer receives a credit for producing more energy than they consumed. For installations in off-grid situations, a typical solution is that of large, rechargeable battery systems designed to store solar energy gathered during the day for use during nighttime or when adequate sunlight is unavailable. These batteries, often referred to as “forklift batteries,” weigh several thousand kilograms and last from three to twelve years, depending on the brand and the nature of the solar installation.
While much of the research and development in solar solutions focuses on maximizing the efficiency of PV cells, there are a number of companies realizing the fact that energy collection only represents half of the equation. Efficient, low-cost storage is an essential component to the solar industry. With the advent of constantly improving technologies in this area, many more consumers may choose to go off-grid in the coming years. Andreas Tapakoudes is the current President and CEO of solar firm Qsolar Limited, Ltd.