After installing hundreds of solar batteries across Australia, I wanted to share my thoughts and predictions about the past, present and future of solar batteries.
The market is constantly growing, developing and picking up speed. It's really interesting to look back and see how far solar batteries have come in such a short amount of time. I mean, last year alone we can see the jump from Powerwall to Powerwall 2. This leap is representative of the entire solar battery industry and shows how fast technology is advancing and with each advancement solar batteries are becoming increasingly popular.
At the beginning of 2021 we are still at the foot of a massive uptake of solar batteries, but as installers we are certainly feeling the tendency. As a solar electrician, let my thoughts on the solar battery industry guide you.
Current consumer demand for solar batteries in Australia
The demand for solar batteries in Australia is not as great as you might think. Because of their high cost, not all homeowners can afford to store their excess electricity with a battery. This means that most Australians are missing out on a solar battery as it may not be considered a valuable investment. Furthermore, unlike solar panels, there are limited choices for solar batteries, and these options are all in the same price range.
We've certainly found that the majority of the demand is for customers who are on a large budget and willing to spend the extra money without the need for a quick return on investment. Homeowners who already have a high return on investment solar system also appear to be good candidates for solar batteries. There is also a high demand from regional people with limited or temporary access to the power grid, often due to infrastructure weaknesses and the resulting power outages.
With this in mind, the majority of solar consumers will install solar systems in order to reduce the cost of their energy bills and definitely take advantage of the available solar discounts. This means that money is a driving force in choosing renewable energy products. As a result, solar batteries are still way too expensive (at the moment) to be the size of solar batteries.
Coupled with the price, most homeowners actually have a small solar panel system. Your system may not be able to produce enough energy to fully charge a solar battery. This would mean that getting a battery could be an expensive mistake that takes a long time to pay off.
A report by the Smart Energy Council (SEC) stated that by the end of 2017, an estimated 52,500 solar battery storage systems (off-grid) had been installed in Australia. When you compare this to the potential 2 million homes with solar panels, it doesn't seem like anything.
Currently, the greatest demand for solar batteries is from those who can afford it or who need it urgently.
Advantages of the job – decent views.
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The fee of the change
Let's roll the tape back a little. In my experience, solar batteries in Australia only really picked up speed in 2016 with the release of the Tesla Powerwall 2 at a good price. Thereafter, solar batteries became increasingly popular with homeowners.
Some changes have been made in the battery industry. The government has introduced more financial incentives for those looking to invest in a solar battery, and Tesla Powerwalls has seen some price changes over the past few years.
You can now get a huge discount to cover upfront solar battery costs in SA and VIC. The number of solar battery systems appears to have tripled since 2015. It is estimated that 70,000 battery installations can take place this year and that Australia will meet up to 30% of the world's solar battery demand.
Driver of consumer demand for batteries
Right now, the biggest driver of consumer demand for solar batteries is investing in a premium product that offers long-term savings. Storing the energy produced by your solar system is extremely valuable for homeowners. This will further reduce their bills as they will draw less power from the grid at high prices.
Solar batteries offer an extremely secure return on investment. They are a premium product with advanced technology that allows homeowners complete freedom of their own energy. This is exactly why people invest in solar batteries. The drive is a high-end product that can offer you more than standard energy prices can offer.
For some people, this investment could offer a cheaper, greener future. It can even change the lives of those suffering from rising electricity prices or frequent blackouts. Solar batteries provide security for your home. Just knowing that your home is protected from power outages and that you have full control over where you spend your electricity is a driving force for some to make that investment.
As batteries become more affordable, the demand will surely increase. I have absolutely no doubt about that. However, people who wish to wait find that they are missing out on huge savings. It could potentially cost more to wait for a lower price than actually investing in a solar battery. As with any investment, the sooner you act, the more you save.
Another interesting driving force, however, is the technology within the solar battery. Those who have dealt with solar batteries seem more likely to invest in a high end battery with long warranties and advanced technology. Most people would rather spend the extra money on a good solar battery than on a cheaper one, which may not last as long, store as much energy, or even lose energy through its storage cycles.
Most homeowners want a battery with large storage capacity, high round-trip efficiency, and long life. This seems like the biggest buying point for those interested in solar batteries. Right now it's pretty much limited to three batteries in Australia, namely Tesla's Powerwall 2, Sonnens Solarbatterie, and LG Chem. Hive battery is also a good budget option.
Possible disadvantages for installers
The biggest challenge in installing solar batteries is meeting the Clean Energy Council (CEC) installation guidelines. It can be difficult to find the best place to install the battery and to ensure that all guidelines are followed.
Batteries cannot be installed if there are windows at the distances mentioned above or if the space is habitable (e.g. bedroom, living room). Batteries cannot be installed in direct sunlight either, which means outdoor areas can sometimes be difficult to navigate.
Finally, when we install a battery on plasterboard, a fire retardant film must also be attached to the wall behind the battery. This may or may not bother some homeowners. Overall, this is the biggest challenge facing solar installers.
Other than that, solar batteries don't have many disadvantages for installers. The future is bright and demand is picking up.
The future of solar batteries and virtual power plants
Solar batteries have an incredibly bright future ahead of them. Both commercial and private batteries and batteries for solar parks offer you the opportunity to store cleanly generated energy. Right now, most of that energy is wasted.
This means that investing in solar batteries is a safe and valuable investment. And yet battery technology is still relatively young, which means that advances and improvements are not only coming tight and fast, but there is also the very real potential for the kind of world-breaking advances that offer something that has never been seen before.
If we look at Tesla's leap from Powerwall to Powerwall 2 in 2015, you can see how quickly the technology has advanced while maintaining roughly the same price. With technology advancing so rapidly, the future of solar batteries is undoubtedly extremely secure.
In addition, governments are starting to push solar batteries more and more. States like Victoria and South Australia are offering large subsidies to reduce the upfront investment for first-time solar battery buyers. I think in time there will be a federal incentive for homeowners to invest in a solar battery as well.
And remember, I'm saying all of this without mentioning Virtual Power Plants (VPPs), a combined source of independent power that uses a solar system and a battery. When enough people in an area can produce their own energy, VPPs provide an opportunity to exchange your energy with others who need it. In return, when you need it most, you can draw energy from others in your VPP. This leads to much lower energy costs, a greener community and less grid load.
So far, VPPs have proven to be popular in solar and battery systems. There are several VPPs in South Australia, including Tesla and Sun VPPs.
Because of the tremendous benefits of VPPs, we believe this will be a huge feature of our future. VPPs not only help homeowners individually, but also the entire community with lower energy prices and the whole world with fewer greenhouse gases and CO2 emissions. Many people are already signed up and are pushing others to join a VPP – the more the better.
I expect several VPPs to be set up in Australia over the next decade as their popularity grows. These VPP companies may offer a free battery / system under a contract when you sign up with them. You can then slowly pay off your system from the money you save on your bills each month. It's too early to say if this is going to happen, but I think if it does, it will kickstart the VPP industry. Right now is a good chance to sign up with one for instant savings and a higher return on investment.
Author: George Panayides, Lightning Solar & Electrical
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of pv magazine.
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