During the deep freeze that hit Texas last month, some people fared better than others because they were able to call on their own sources of power. Households with a diesel generator or solar panels kept the lights and heat on even when their neighbors couldn’t.
But what if you could combine the benefits of those technologies into a solution you could use on demand, like a generator – but one that runs on renewable energy? Single-home energy storage batteries aren’t ubiquitous but are becoming more common.
Marriele Mango is project director for the Clean Energy Group, a nonprofit think tank and advocacy organization. She told Texas Standard that solar storage cells can provide levels of power similar to a generator. Solar systems without storage capacity can’t do that.
“A battery storage system alone can be installed without solar,” Mango said. “It’s often more affordable. In that instance, the battery charges from the grid and can provide backup power.”
Mango says battery storage units vary, but are often the size of a mini-refrigerator, and can be installed inside a home.
The length of time batteries will provide power depends on the source of that power, and how much energy is needed. Central air conditioning, which is ubiquitous in Texas, is a significant drain on the battery.
One advantage of batteries over gas generators is that you don’t need to find and purchase fuel. They also provide a clean source of power. And, batteries are less complicated to operate than a generator, particularly for inexperienced users.
“One benefit that you have with a solar storage system is that the power is provided automatically,” Mango said. “A switch goes off; it powers the critical loads that you have access to.”
Battery system prices vary, but Mango says the Tesla Powerwall is a home popular option that costs $8,000-$9,000 for the batteries alone, plus installation. Prices have come down dramatically in the past decade, she says. Increasing their availability and affordability could require incentives for manufacturers and consumers to adopt them.