With The Latest Run of Solar Adverts What is the Difference Between Battery Ready Or Battery Compatible Solar Power Systems?
Once again the Australian Solar industry is at an exciting time, where Australians will soon be able to gain more value from their solar generated electricity and actually reduce their reliance on the current electrical grid supply. However as with anything new there is a whole range of new terms to understand from Battery Ready Or Battery Compatible; Off Grid and Hybrid Battery solar power systems all being added to our every day vocabulary. Of course there are even more technical terms to add to the confusion with ‘Plug And Play’, ‘battery upgradeable’, ‘battery compatible’ and ‘battery ready’ being advertised in regards to solar and storage. Here at SAE Group we believe a better question for solar owners to ask is whether their solar panel systems are battery compatible or actually upgradeable.
To clear up the idea of “battery compatible” nearly every solar system (both existing systems and new ones coming onto the market) are “battery compatible”. Effectively, there is no reason for the solar system not to integrate with a battery as long as that particular battery has it’s own battery inverter and integrated control system.
Unfortunately, the Solar cowboys are back out in force and many people are given the impression that by buying a “battery ready” system, the solar inverter supplied as part of their solar power system is not only able to convert the battery’s DC current into usable AC current (which households run on & is suitable for export to the mains grid) but able to control, and directly interface with their battery storage system. To do this without any additional add-on controllers the inverter would have to be termed as a battery ready inverter which would then be either a Hybrid or Off Grid system inverter.
To explain, in a battery storage system, the inverter also needs to be able to route DC power into the battery for charging; either from the solar panels or via cheaper off-peak mains grid power. Most solar inverters currently installed in Australia are not able to perform this added function, and to be clear – cannot be upgraded. However, they can be “AC coupled” (to use the official term) with some other battery control systems, including both the new SMA and Enphase controllers that in SMA’s case allows connection with the Tesla Powerwall and in the case of Enphase their own modular battery systems due out in August 2016. So, while you can use your existing solar panels, to go hybrid you will need to acquire a replacement hybrid inverter or some additional inverter or other equipment to allow your current inverter to continue its job with a battery system.
Like all things Solar when it comes to Battery Ready Or Battery Compatible / Upgradeable, it is important to ask your solar company what THEY mean by the specific terminology they are using. Most of the time at the bare minimum, a new solar inverter will be required either to replace the existing one or as an addition to what you already have.
What Is A “Battery Ready” Solar Power System?
The most important component of a true Battery Ready system is the inverter. There are currently two different forms available on the Australian market:
- A Hybrid Inverter which controls both Solar power and Battery power (like the Fronius Symo Hybrid)
- A stand alone battery system (off-grid) which interfaces directly with solar power, battery power and usually has a back-up generator capability built in too, the current range of Giant off grid systems are the ones we recommend for this situation which can include the (like the SMA model with a ‘Sunny Island’ charger).
- An AC Coupled system simply means your battery will be charged from the output of the inverter. One of the key items for this is the Enphase Envoy-S Metered gateway.
As well as having a compatible inverter, a truly battery ready solar power system will also have a power meter already installed. A power meter is a device that records a home’s solar energy (electricity) production as well as their electricity use while making the best use of their solar generated electricity. These ‘smart meters” also communicate data via a household’s internet connection to a central secure server. This gives the home-owner access to some really user-friendly reports via the web using either a computer, cell phone or tablet. It is important to remember, the power meter can also be a handy tool in the lead-up to a battery storage system being installed as it shows the amount of storage capacity required.
Battery inverters that will allow this kind of upgrade include the super exciting SMA Sunny Boy and the micro inverters in the Enphase AC Batteries.
Compatibility Isn’t Just About The Components
While selecting the right inverter to suit your choice of battery storage where the inverter is located on the system also plays a big part, in addition to the power meter. As with most things solar, if the system has been installed incorrectly for energy storage, you could face major costs in getting things right despite your system’s hardware qualifying as being battery compatible or upgradeable. This is where having a knowledgeable installer is crucial – with the experience, training, and expertise in installing battery systems. Most standard installers simply haven’t had the experience with off-grid and battery storage systems.
Should you Buy Solar Battery Storage Now – Or Wait?
It’s true that solar has generally become cheaper over time, so the temptation may be to wait until battery systems are widely available. However, even if a solar power system drops (for example) $500 in purchase price over the next year, you may be missing out on $1,000 in electricity bill savings in the meantime and crucial information you’ll need to base an energy storage purchase decision on. Add to that the Solar Rebate being phased out as of the 1st January 2017 means that the Government Rebate will be dropping every year from next January forcing buyers to dig deeper into their own pockets.
Our recommendation is to get a quick quote on a battery-ready system to work out the best decision for your circumstances. Whether you’re a solar owner wanting to add batteries soon or a potential solar panel buyer with a dream of energy storage, it’s important to get the right advice. Our specialist Solar team is offering a wide range of competitively priced next-generation battery systems from the world’s leading manufacturers, installed by knowledgeable, experienced solar storage professionals. Contact us today for a quote and make sure you don’t miss out.