Skip to main content
Home » All » Battery storage: Upselling energy storage for customer value and your bottom line

The essentials of battery storage for solar systems

Understanding battery storage

Battery storage technology is fundamental to maximizing the benefits of solar installations. During peak sunlight, batteries can store excess energy that can be used later when the sun isn’t shining. This capability optimizes energy and ensures a continuous power supply, enhancing solar energy systems’ efficiency and reliability.

Types of battery systems

The market offers various battery storage systems, each suitable for residential and commercial.

Grid-Tied batteries:

  • Lithium-ion: Widely used due to high energy density, longer cycle life, and fast charging. However, it can be expensive and requires a Battery Management System (BMS).
  • Lead-acid: Affordable but has a shorter cycle life and lower efficiency. Commonly used in grid-tied systems for their cost-effectiveness.

Off-Grid batteries:

  • Lead-acid: Also utilized in off-grid systems for their affordability and reliability. Off-grid setups often prioritize cost efficiency and are not reliant on grid connection.
  • Nickel-Iron (NiFe): Known for longevity and robustness, suitable for off-grid applications where durability is key. Less efficient but can withstand harsh conditions.

These distinctions help tailor the battery choice based on whether the system will be grid-tied or off-grid, ensuring optimal performance and cost-effectiveness for the specific application.

Understanding the importance of system sizing

A well-sized system is the foundation for a successful solar installation. As a solar installer, you play a key role in ensuring that your customers’ systems are appropriately sized to meet their energy needs. Here’s why it matters:

  • Optimal performance: Properly sized systems maximize energy production and utilization. Oversized or undersized systems can lead to inefficiencies, affecting overall performance.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Right-sizing prevents unnecessary expenses. Oversized systems may require more expensive components, while undersized systems may result in additional costs for future upgrades.
  • Battery efficiency: Battery storage capacity directly impacts energy autonomy and reliability. Choosing the right battery size ensures reliable backup power and efficient utilization.

Calculating battery storage capacity

There are several factors to consider when calculating the battery storage capacity needed. If you are not using a tool like Solargraf to automatically make those calculations, consider the following factors in the estimate:

Assessing energy consumption

  • Daily energy usage: Begin by estimating your customer’s daily energy consumption (in watt-hours or kilowatt-hours). Consider appliances, lighting, and other electrical loads.
  • Desired days of autonomy: Determine how many days of backup power your customer requires during periods without sunlight (e.g., cloudy days or nighttime).

Depth of discharge (DoD)

  • Understand DoD: DoD refers to the percentage of a battery’s capacity that can be safely discharged. For lithium-ion batteries, typical DoD ranges from 80% to 90%.
  • Calculate required battery capacity:
    • Battery Capacity (in watt-hours) = Daily Energy Consumption × Days of Autonomy / DoD

Considering other factors

  • Efficiency: Account for battery efficiency (usually 90-95% for lithium-ion). Adjust the calculated capacity accordingly.
  • Manufacturer’s recommendations: Check the battery manufacturer’s specifications and warranty details. Some batteries may have specific requirements.

Example: Suppose your customer’s daily energy consumption is 20 kWh, and they want three days of autonomy. Using a lithium-ion battery with 90% DoD:

Battery Capacity = 20,000 Wh × 3 / 0.9 = 66,667 Wh (or 66.67 kWh)

Maximizing customer value with energy storage

Example scenario: California homeowner

  • Solar alone
    • System Cost: $14,000 (5 kW solar panel system after tax credit)
    • Annual Savings: $1,500 (estimated)
    • ROI: 10.7% (assuming 20-year system life)
  • Solar + Battery
    • System Cost: $15,550 (5 kW solar + 10 kWh battery after tax credit)
    • Annual Savings: $2,000 (estimated, considering peak shaving and energy arbitrage)
    • ROI: 12.9% (assuming 20-year system life)

Improving your bottom line with energy storage solutions

Upselling strategies

Solar installers can enhance their upselling strategies by emphasizing the added value that battery storage brings to solar installations. Presenting customized proposals highlighting the ROI of integrating battery storage using platforms like Solargraf can significantly bolster the attractiveness of solar proposals.

Financial incentives and rebates

Leveraging financial incentives, financing options, rebates, and the federal tax credit for battery storage can make the proposition more attractive to customers. Solar installers should stay informed about local and national incentives that can lower the upfront costs of battery systems, making them a more feasible addition for customers. Solar alone qualifies for federal tax credits (currently 26%); starting from 2023, batteries also qualify for a dedicated 30% federal tax credit.

Building long-term customer relationships

Solar installers become trusted advisors to their customers seeking energy independence by offering battery storage solutions. This results in stronger customer relationships and opportunities for referrals and repeat business.

Implementation challenges and solutions

Technical considerations

Integrating battery storage into existing solar systems can present technical challenges, from compatibility issues to optimal sizing. Solar installers must develop a deep understanding of these technical aspects and leverage advanced tools like Solargraf to ensure seamless integration.

Regulatory and interconnection hurdles

Navigating the regulatory landscape and interconnection processes with utility companies can be daunting. Solar installers should proactively engage with these entities, armed with comprehensive knowledge and documentation, to streamline the integration process. NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) provides information and resources on interconnection standards. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is another valuable resource for solar installers, offering research findings, education, and advocacy for solar professionals.

The future of solar and storage integration

Adding battery storage to solar energy setups is a big step forward for renewable energy. It makes solar power more valuable and helps the industry become more stable and green. Solar installers need to start using battery storage in their plans, using tools like Solargraf. This is important as more people want energy storage. Solar installers can help lead the way to a future where energy systems are more connected, efficient, and self-sufficient.