20 Mar 2020

Energy Storage: How to Make Solar Panels Work Harder for You

Aggreko generator in front of a solar plant
 

Solar panels are an excellent way to produce clean energy, both for your own use and to feed into the wider grid. But did you know that you can also supplement your income and make your own solar-powered microgrid more resilient by using your panels to charge up batteries for energy storage?

Let’s take a look at how that works.

What are Microgrids?

Microgrids are essentially miniature versions of normal grids, which directly supply energy produced locally to a small group of users. They are made up of a source of locally produced energy (for example solar panels), a backup energy supply such as a generator and, very often, an energy storage system, such as batteries.

Microgrids function as a subsystem of the general grid, connected through a single point which also allows the microgrid to be disconnected and operate in isolation if needed. This is called islanding, and means that the microgrid system supports its own requirements without taking power into the “island” or out of it. 

This also means that, if the electricity source can’t produce enough power on its own for all the user serves by the microgrid, you will need another way of feeding power into the island. That’s where energy storage comes in.

What is Energy Storage?

Energy storage is a way to create a secure energy resource that is flexible and versatile. The energy produced now is saved for later, typically in batteries or collectors. Depending on the technology you use, this could be for long or short term storage, while the capacity of the battery dictates the extent of backup power available. This then picks up the slack at a later date if the electricity-generation part of the microgrid can’t produce enough.

When Is Energy Storage a Good Idea?

Energy storage makes your microgrid more reliable and resilient. The more resilient your island needs to be, the more energy storage would be advisable. 

Consider how fast you need to be able to switch from the main grid to the island, how much of the load is critical, and how long you will be dependent on the island for power. This will dictate how much backup energy storage you need to plan for.

However, if you find that you are able to produce a surplus of energy during certain times of the year, you may be able to store more energy than you need for your own microgrid.

Solar Panels and Energy Storage

Solar panels provide an excellent way to power up batteries for energy storage. Not only can this be used to generate energy for a microgrid that supports your business or your own home, but you can also sell the stored energy to support other companies’ microgrids.

This provides an excellent way to generate extra money from your solar panels, making them work harder for you while making your microgrid, and other people’s, more stable and sustainable, no matter what challenges they face.