Switching to community solar offers many benefits. For one, community solar subscribers help produce and use clean, renewable energy on a large scale, reducing air pollution and water usage. Community solar is also helping to bring clean, renewable energy to more people of all backgrounds. Whereas rooftop solar installations are available only to homeowner with the means and property features to do so, community solar is available to virtually all residents of a service area. This is because community solar farms are installed on local tracts of land; the energy that solar farms generate then powers the homes of their many subscribers. In recent years, the development of the home-storage battery has made it possible to store excess solar energy at home. Homes that use solar plus storage are known as using hybrid solar systems. Below is a look at the benefits of solar plus storage and how it works.
How It Works
When a community-solar customer subscribes to a community-solar project, they continue paying their conventional electricity bill while paying for solar credits from the community-solar company. The customer uses these solar credits, purchased at a lower rate, to pay off their electricity bill. If the customer has a home battery-storage system, they can save excess energy from the community-solar site for future use. When coupled with a photovoltaic (PV) system like a community-solar farm, the battery acts as a solar battery backup for times when energy is not otherwise available, for example when the community-solar grid is down. The result is a self-sufficiency in terms of energy, with a dedicated supply available at any moment.
Types of Batteries and Battery Costs
Unlike community solar, for which there is no upfront purchase required, home storage batteries can be fairly expensive. There are many battery options on the market but two main types—lead-acid and lithium-ion. Lithium-ion batteries can cost $8,000 or more installed, whereas a small lead-acid battery can cost as little as $200. The price of the battery will depend on its capacity and the location in which you decide to have it installed. Lithium-ion batteries continue to dominate the market, though, because they are more durable and reliable than lead-acid batteries. The lead-acid batteries are smaller in terms of output, so they are best used for emergencies, not for powering entire homes for long periods of time at a stretch. It’s important to remember that these batteries are storage devices and do not create energy.
Backup batteries offer significant advantages over the other option—generators. Generators produce energy but—especially if we are talking about portable generators—they are noisy, inefficient, polluting, and difficult to manage. By contrast, whole-house backup batteries are quiet, easy to use, and use clean energy. While the startup costs are more for a backup battery, the investment is likely worth it in the long run.