Lithium-ion battery

5 arguments for solar-without-storage: Why would you wait to install batteries?

by Solar Choice Staff on August 5, 2016

in Installation advice,Batteries & Energy Storage

Solar battery storage is a hot topic in Australia these days thanks to a combination of global technology and market developments, as well as the peculiar story rooftop solar in Australia. Energy storage system costs are coming down steadily, and early adopters are already having battery banks installed in their homes. But for many Australian households the time is not quite ripe for solar-plus-batteries. What are the arguments for sticking with a simple solar-only system – at least for the time being?

Solar Choice’s role in the decision-making process

We should emphasise that our job here at Solar Choice is to help our customers make a well-informed decision of solar and/or battery storage system provider. We do this by first providing them with a free and impartial look at the market in their area of Australia in the form of a Solar Quote Comparison. Where requested, we can then follow up by providing advice about how to select a system that best suits that customer’s needs and budget.

Please note: It is not our intention to discourage anyone from getting batteries – in fact, we would love to see battery storage in every solar home. But we also recognise that batteries are not yet the best fit for all households. If batteries are not yet in a customer’s best interest, we will advise accordingly – but the decision is ultimately up to you.

There’s always a ‘pro’ to a ‘con’. Want to see some arguments for installing batteries now? Check out this article.

5 reasons to wait before installing batteries

1. Solar-sans-storage systems currently offer a better return on investment than solar-plus-storage systems

Although solar PV system prices have fallen dramatically in recent years, battery storage prices are still on the high side. While this is set to change in the near future (with a number of industry analysts predicting PV-style price slides in the coming years) the fact remains that most households will save more money and see better payback periods from an appropriately-sized, grid-connect solar-only system as opposed to a solar-plus-storage system. (Accordingly, the energy storage early adopter cohort will be mostly comprised of people for whom great returns and short payback periods are not the primary consideration.)

2. Batteries don’t make sense for customers currently receiving a feed-in tariff

For households currently receiving a generous state-sponsored solar feed-in tariff, there will be no financial motivation for installing batteries to capture & store their solar energy – which is worth much more being sent into the grid than self-consumed by the home. The end date for these payments differs depending on the state (we have a roundup here).

Incidentally, this is why NSW’s battery storage market is expected to take off more quickly than anywhere else: the state’s generous 60c/kWh Solar Bonus Scheme payments ended last year – before that of any other state. This has left about 140,000 solar homes with a profound sense of loss and systems which have long ago paid for themselves. For these people, there is a compelling case for using batteries to maximise the value of their solar power – which is now worth significantly less when exported to the grid.

3. The energy storage market is still young

The economic proposition that rooftop solar power offers Australian homes is now well-understood, and nearly 1.5 million households now have panels on their roofs. This virtual commodification means that competition is fierce in the residential solar sector, and the end result is low solar prices and an informed, discriminating consumer base who can quickly ascertain what deals constitute good value.

The energy storage market, on the other hand, is still in the early stages of its development and prices have not yet settled. Solar Choice, by introducing Australia’s first Battery Storage Comparison platform, is aiming to change this. Our platform will undoubtedly catalyse Australia’s energy storage market and make it easier for consumers to comparison-shop. Nevertheless, it will still be some time before it’s possible to understand the full range of market offerings at a glance. If you’re shopping around for the best deal possible, you could do worse than to wait a little while longer to see where the chips land.

4. Thoroughly understanding your electricity consumption will help you choose a storage system

Because battery storage prices are still relatively high, it’s very important for households to make sure that they get the most of their batteries, should they eventually choose to install them. The best way to do this is to have real data on their electricity consumption patterns – preferably for at least a year. Having this data will make it much easier for an installer to design a solar-plus-storage system whose output will closely correlate to the home’s demand curve – thereby maximising returns. The best method for collecting this data would be to install monitoring devices or an energy management system which digitally log household electricity consumption, but even simple electricity monitors will suffice as long as the homeowner is prepared to put some time and effort into recording the details.

5. Storage-ready ‘hybrid’ inverters give you the option to install batteries at a later date

For those who are certain that they want batteries but who have also decided that now is not the time, installing a storage-ready ‘hybrid’ inverter – but without batteries – could be the right move. Most major manufacturers offer these hybrid inverters, and customers should be able to ask for them whether they’re installing a brand new solar system or replacing an old inverter on an existing one. Having this type of inverter will allow the system owner to bide their time waiting for the battery storage stars to align before having to make a decision.

Ready to shop for solar or battery storage? Compare quotes from installers in your area.

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Top image via Wikipedia.

© 2017 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul August 18, 2016 at 11:44 am

Are there any battery solutions that can retrofit to an existing system without replacing the current inverter, perhaps with a smaller second one?

Seems to be a waste if you have a high quality one made in Germany.

Reply

Solar Choice Staff August 22, 2016 at 1:26 pm

Hi Paul,

A DC-coupled battery storage system is type of solution you’re talking about. In this situation, the batteries charge directly (and only) from the solar panels, but you’ll still need something ‘behind’ the solar inverter to make the batteries work.

Theoretically, any battery bank on its own should be able to be added to an existing solar system in this way.

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