Innovation

Is going off the grid a reality with solar battery storage?

Is going off the grid a reality with solar battery storage

With the latest in battery storage technology arriving in Australia, homes can now store the energy generated by their solar systems. But does this ability to store energy mean an average household could be completely self-sufficient?  Here’s a look at the realities of going off-grid.

What is going off the grid?

The phrase “going off the grid” means a home or business produces enough renewable energy, and has enough storage, to meet all their electricity needs and is able to disconnect from the power grid.

Solar battery storage plays an important part in going off-grid. The battery stores the unused energy generated by your solar panels during the day, which means instead of it going back to the grid you’re able to use the electricity at night, when your solar panels aren’t producing energy.

As solar systems and battery storage become less expensive, renewable energy is becoming more accessible. However, there are still a couple of things most households need to consider before for thinking about going off-grid.

Can it be done?

Studies by Grattan Institute estimate that to achieve 95 per cent power supply reliability, an average home requires a 7 kW solar system and a 35 kWh battery storage pack. A system this size would need 60m2 of clear roof space, ideally north facing.1

Roof size may not be an issue if you’re in a spacious rural area, but in a city with limited space it may be difficult to disconnect from the grid and still have all the comforts you’re used to – unless you become very energy efficient.2

Outside the major cities, Australia already has large areas that are off the grid with the help of battery storage. In these rural areas the time it takes to recoup the cost of installing a solar battery system is generally less than four years.3

It’s also important to consider the climate where you live. Solar systems do not reliably generate all of a household’s power needs on winter days with heavy cloud and weak sunlight. This means you must have enough battery storage to cover you over these days.

However, it can be done, and there are residential developments currently being designed to generate their own renewable energy with centralised battery storage.  An example is a housing estate being built in Alkimos Beach, Western Australia, which will deploy and test the commercial feasibility of combining more than 100 solar systems together with a centralised 1.1 MWh lithium-ion battery storage system.4 This housing development could be an indication of the future, where engineering and design incorporates battery storage.

The hybrid option

While it’s possible for any house to go off the grid, the amount of solar panels and battery storage you may need to invest in could mean it’s not financially beneficial.

That’s where a hybrid between self-generated solar power and the grid can offer many benefits. Solar battery storage increases the amount of self-generated electricity a house consumes from 30 to 60 per cent5. This means you save on your electricity bills using clean, renewable energy while still having the back up of guaranteed grid supplied energy if you need it.

Thinking about making the switch to solar power with battery storage? Contact EnergyAustralia to find out about your options.

    1. Grattan Institute: Sundown, sunrise: How Australia can finally get solar power right (2015)
    2. Solar Choice: Can you go off the grid with solar and energy storage
    3. Climate council report: Powerful potential: Battery Storage for renewable energy and electric cars (2015)
    4. Australia Government: Australian Renewable Energy Agency
    5. Climate council report: Powerful potential: Battery Storage for renewable energy and electric cars (2015)