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Renewable Energy Storage

19 July, 2023

Renewable Energy Storage

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Renewable energy storage is the key to unlocking the full potential of clean energy systems.

Harnessing and storing excess energy from renewable sources allows you to optimise your energy usage and reduce your dependency from the grid. But how is it done? What steps are involved? Where do you start? If you’re considering a renewable energy storage installation, this guide is for you.

Your renewable energy storage size must be based on your current and future energy needs

This is an important step in planning for renewable energy storage and there are some crucial factors you need to account for if you want to mazimise your return of investment and benefit fully from it.

The easiest metric is your historical energy consumption. By reviewing your past energy bills you’ll understand your average and peak energy consumption over a specific period. It is important to identify patterns and fluctuations in energy usage throughout the year, for example heating costs during the winter or cooling costs during the summer. This data will serve as a baseline for estimating your energy needs.

Renewable Energy Storage - Estimate your energy needs by reviewing your past energy bills

Renewable Energy Storage – Estimate your energy needs by reviewing your past energy bills

The consumption you see in your bills is immediately related to the appliances and devices you own and operate. Start by categorising them by order of the ones that consume the most energy in your home or business (such as heating and cooling systems, water heaters, refrigerators, lighting, and electronics). Then estimate the number of hours they operate each day. All manufacturers provide a power rating that you can multiply by the operating hours to calculate the energy consumed by each appliance.

The next step is to see how much energy you can save by implementing energy efficiency measures to reduce your overall energy consumption. This can include upgrading to energy-efficient appliances, improving insulation, using LED lighting and adopting energy-saving habits. By minimizing your energy usage, you can optimize the sizing of your renewable energy storage system. Consider any seasonal variations in your energy consumption and factor in these variations when estimating your energy needs and sizing the renewable storage system.

Another factor in your calculations should be the potential for future growth. Are you expecting any significant lifestyle changes? Are there any more family members being added to or leaving from the house? Do you have any future plans that will increase your energy demands? Will you be buying an electric vehicle? Remember to account for all these energy requirements in your assessment.

Your most important renewable energy storage asset: batteries

Selecting the right battery for your renewable energy storage system is crucial to ensure efficient and reliable operation.

After you’ve made the assesment of your energy needs, you will have a good indication of what capacity your batteries should sum up to. Remember to consider both your average and peak energy consumption to size the battery appropriately. You will need to choose a battery that has adequate rating for the needs of your household or business, especially when the demand is at its peak. The power rating of the battery indicates how much electricity it can deliver at any given time. Ensure that the power rating aligns with your peak power demands. A higher power rating allows the battery to supply more electricity simultaneously. For example, a fridge will be working 24/7, whereas an oven will only work for a few hours, and a kettle for a few minutes. There are also differences at the times this energy will be needed; will you need to power appliances during the day when the sun is high in the sky and your panels are producing excess power, or will you need to run something at night when there is no sun, and therefore you will need to use the energy stored in your batteries?

Renewable Energy Storage Batteries installation

Renewable Energy Storage Batteries installation

There are a few additional factors to look into, which will optimise your renewable energy storage and make the most out of your investment. Let’s see them in detail:

  • Efficiency
    It determines how much energy is lost during charging and discharging. Look for batteries with high round-trip efficiency, as this ensures that a significant portion of the stored energy can be utilised when needed.
  • Depth of Discharge
    This refers to the amount of a battery’s capacity that can be used before it needs to be recharged. Batteries with a higher depth of discharge will allow you to utilise more of their capacity, providing greater energy autonomy. Remember though that frequent deep discharges can affect the battery’s lifespan, so finding a balance is important.
  • Cycle Life
    This is the number of charge and discharge cycles a battery can undergo before its capacity significantly degrades. Look for batteries with a long cycle life, as they offer better longevity and cost-effectiveness over time. Lithium-ion batteries often have longer cycle lives compared to other battery chemistries.
  • Battery Chemistry
    Different battery chemistries have varying characteristics. Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used for renewable energy storage due to their high energy density, efficiency, and cycle life. However, other chemistries like lead-acid or flow batteries may have advantages depending on specific requirements, such as cost or specific environmental conditions. This is definitely not the most important deciding factor, but it certainly plays an important role in your choice of battery.
  • Safety
    Ensure that the battery you choose has built-in safety features to prevent hazards. Look for features like thermal sensors, overcharge/overdischarge protection, and fail-safe mechanisms. Verify that the battery complies with relevant safety standards and certifications.
  • Manufacturer Reputation and Warranty
    Research the reputation of the battery manufacturer and their track record of reliability and customer support. A reliable warranty from the manufacturer is important to ensure peace of mind and adequate coverage for any potential issues.

There is no doubt the battery is the most important part of your renewable energy storage system. Don’t go cheap on that, you are guaranteed to regret it. Choose your batteries carefully and don’t be afraid to spend a bit more on them, but also don’t fall for silly gimmicks that may look impressive but don’t add anything to the efficiency of your renewable energy storage installation.

Does your renewable energy storage satisfy all the installation requirements?

Reneweable energy storage systems require space. With the technology as it is at the time of writing, this is unavoidable. This means you need to assess if you have the necessary space space to house your renewable energy storage unit along with all the extra devices that go with it. Consider the physical dimensions and weight of the battery, as well as any specific installation requirements (such as distance from the wall or from other appliances) provided by the manufacturer. Ensure that you have adequate space for both the battery unit and any necessary additional equipment. You also need to ensure that proper ventilation is allowed to the battery to dissipate heat. Manufacturer’s guidelines regarding safety clearances, temperature limits and any ventilation or cooling requirements will help you decide the size of the space you will need, so it’s a good idea to do your due dilligence and account for these factors in advance before commiting to a purchase.

Keep in mind that renewable energy storage systems are not used only in buildings. There are many other applications, such as RVs, boats, campers, farms, factories etc., and each of these has its own safety and installation particular requirements. The location of the actual installation is very important. Where is the optimal location for the batteries to be installed? Will that location help with routing the cables to your solar panels? Will it allow you quick and easy access? Is it near your main switchboard? Is it near any flammable materials? Are there any local permits, regulations, or building codes related to the installation of energy storage systems that you need to be compliant with? Above all, is your installation safe?

Renewable Energy Storage - A very dangerous installation in a boat, with the battery next to a fuel tank

Renewable Energy Storage – A very dangerous installation in a boat, with the battery next to a fuel tank

This is not an exchaustive list, but it can become exhausting to do all this research on your own. We strongly recommend you engage with an experienced renewable energy storage installer or electrical contractor to evaluate your particular installation requirements accurately. They can provide expert advice, assess your specific situation and recommend any necessary modifications or considerations for a successful installation.

Monitoring the performance of your renewable energy storage system

Monitoring and maintaining your renewable energy storage system are crucial to ensure optimal performance, longevity and to maximize the benefits of your investment. Implement a monitoring system that allows you to track and analyze key performance metrics of your renewable energy storage system. This can include energy production, energy consumption, battery state of charge and other relevant data. Choose a monitoring system that provides real-time information and user-friendly interfaces, allowing you to easily access and interpret the data. There is no point in having all that data available but impossible to interpret.

Renewable Energy Storage - Battery monitoring system by emoncms.org

Renewable Energy Storage – Battery monitoring system by emoncms.org

Your system will also require regular Inspections to identify any signs of damage, wear, or malfunctions. Check for loose connections, corrosion or physical damage to the battery, wiring and associated components. Inspections should also include visual checks of the battery enclosure, ventilation systems, and any safety features. Safety checks like these ensure that your energy storage system operates safely. Inspect thermal sensors and overcharge/overdischarge protection and make sure you actually test and verify the functionality of these safety features to mitigate any potential hazards. You should also periodically measure and assess the capacity of your battery to ensure it is performing within expected parameters. This can be done through specialized testing equipment or by analyzing the battery’s voltage, current, and state of charge. Monitoring the capacity helps you identify any degradation or performance issues early on. One further check that is often overlooked is making sure you apply any software updates provided by the manufacturer or supplier of your energy storage system. These updates may include performance enhancements, bug fixes or new features that can optimize the system’s operation. Regularly check for updates and apply them as recommended by the manufacturer.

Establish a maintenance schedule that outlines routine tasks and intervals for your energy storage system. This may include cleaning the battery enclosure, checking ventilation systems, tightening connections and conducting preventive maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer. Adhere to the maintenance schedule to ensure the system’s long-term reliability.

If all this is too much for you, consider engaging professional service providers or technicians who specialize in renewable energy storage systems. They can perform regular maintenance, capacity tests, and address any technical issues that may arise. Professional support ensures that your system is in optimal condition and provides peace of mind.