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Listen Up: Home Solar Battery Storage Systems Are Coming

Before net metering, the only way to store daytime-produced solar energy was to use a battery storage system. These systems — generally composed of a bank of lead-acid batteries, a charge controller, solar panels and an inverter — continue to be popular for off-grid use. However, net metering is more efficient (zero round-trip energy loss) and less expensive (no batteries or maintenance required), so the fastest growth over the last decade has been in grid-connected net metered systems.

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Ironically, there is renewed interest in battery backup systems because utilities are placing limits on net metering. So rather than connect the solar panels directly to the grid and "run the meter backwards" during the day, people are essentially storing their own electricity in home battery systems — thereby avoiding caps and special charges that may apply to net-metered systems. 

Great progress is being made with more compact, cost effective and efficient battery storage systems. These systems use lithium ion batteries because they are lighter (wall-mountable) and capable of many more charge-discharge cycles. Although still more expensive than lead acid batteries, volume manufacturing for the electric vehicle industry is spurring significant price reductions. In addition to new battery technology, these home storage systems also employ advanced electronics and software control systems to further reduce costs and increase functionality.

To many solar old-timers, the battery storage industry resembles the rooftop solar industry about 15 years ago. The demand is apparent, the technology is rapidly improving, costs are coming down and incentives are in place to help jumpstart adoption. One of the new companies targeting this market is JuiceBox — a Silicon Valley startup that is developing a lithium-ion battery system that will maximize intermittent wind and solar energy generation. Please listen to this week's Energy Show on Renewable Energy World as Neil Maguire, JuiceBox's CEO, describes their system of batteries, electronics and control software.

Find more episodes of The Energy Show here.

About The Energy Show

As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don't have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World is a weekly 20-minute podcast that provides tips and advice to reduce your home and business energy consumption. Every week we'll cover topics that will help cut your energy bill, explain new products and technologies in plain English, and cut through the hype so that you can make smart and cost-effective energy choices. 

About Your Host

Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. In 2001 he founded Akeena Solar — which grew to become the largest national residential solar installer by the middle of the last decade with over 10,000 rooftop customers coast to coast. He partnered with Westinghouse to create Westinghouse Solar in 2010, and sold the company in 2012.

His pioneering work on reducing costs of rooftop solar power systems include Andalay, the first solar panel with integrated racking, grounding and wiring; the first UL listed AC solar panel; and the first fully “plug and play” AC solar panel. His current efforts are focused on reducing the soft costs for solar power systems, which cause system prices in the U.S. to be double those of Germany.

Although Barry may be known for his outspoken work in the solar industry, he has hands-on experience with a wide range of energy saving technologies.  He's been doing residential energy audits since the punch card days, developed one of the first ground-source heat pumps in the early ‘80s, and always abides by the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Lead image: Green microphone via Shutterstock

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