All forms of energy here on Earth are somehow obtained from the Sun. It is the ultimate source of power. Each hour the total energy from the Sun that hits Earth is more than the world consumes in an entire year!
For many years we have been trying to harness this enormous energy and use it directly. We can install solar panels on the rooftop of our houses or workplace and right away start producing ‘green’ electricity! Using solar panels, we can utilize this economical, environmentally friendly green energy source.
You may think installing solar panels without batteries is not possible at all. Batteries are one of the essential components of a residential Solar power system. Surely they are! But they are not an obvious necessity.
Yes, you can have solar panels without a battery!
Here is all you need to know.
What Are Solar Panels?
The collection of photovoltaic (PV) cells that produce electricity out of solar radiations is a Solar Panel. Solar panels generate Direct Current (DC), which is converted into Alternating Current (AC) through an Inverter to satisfy our daily needs. Switching to solar energy takes out the carbon footprint of a household to its half.
It is time for us to know everything about Solar energy and how to use it.
Solar batteries are crucial because of their benefits. Specifically, you can use solar panels to produce electricity for daily use. Generally, the excess energy produced by the solar panels during the daytime can be stored in batteries for future consumption.
Now there must be a doubt if we can use solar panels without batteries or not.
Can We Use Solar Panels without Batteries?
You may discard the idea as it seems a bit irrational. What will we do with the excess energy if not storing it? And what to do after hours of sunset? Hold on to the confusion. Simply, we can use solar panels without batteries. In an on-grid PV system, solar panels don’t need batteries.
The system overproduces an adequate amount of electricity during midday that is back-fed to the grid.
This is adjusted with the power; homeowners draw from the grid during the night or in an emergency. When the grid takes care of excess production and supply, why should you pay for batteries? They may be essential in some conditions but not a necessity for all.
Here is all you need to know about the grid-tied or on-grid PV system.
Three Main Types of Solar Power Systems:
1. On-grid Solar System
2. Off-grid Solar System
3. Hybrid Solar System
The On-grid solar power system is a grid-tied or, better to be said, grid feed system. An off-grid system is well known as SAPS, i.e., Stand Alone Power System, and the Hybrid system has battery storage along with grid connection.
Grid or electricity grid or power grid is a complex but essential system. Electrical grids have some components like generators, transmission lines, distribution networks, etc. A vast amount of high-voltage electricity is produced in the power plants and distributed all over a specific area. Although power grids are predominant, a wide range of people is not connected to a grid.
Recent studies show almost 13% of the world does not even have electricity. How convenient it may seem; power grids may not be the only favorable source of energy.
Now, let’s try to understand more about On-grid solar system.
What Is An On-grid Solar Power System?
All solar power systems are based on the same principle. Solar panels absorb the sunlight or photons coming from the Sun and generate DC power. This is known as the photovoltaic (PV) effect.
Solar inverters are used to convert this DC power into AC, or it is stored in batteries.
If you have a battery system with your solar panels, excess energy is stored in them. It is beneficial during power cuts or when there is no sunlight.
You can run your appliances by drawing energy from the batteries. You can run your house or business self-sufficiently without depending on the electricity grid. But yes, you have to purchase batteries for your off-grid system if you’re looking for backups.
In an on-grid solar power system, the system is tied to the local electricity grid. So, when the maximum sunlight is falling on the Earth during the daytime, solar panels produce so much more energy than they need for the household.
This excess energy is fed to the grid. So, you don’t need any batteries to save the excess energy for future use, and also, no energy is wasted! After hours of sunset or early in the morning when the sunlight is really low, solar panels cannot produce energy to run the household.
But we need energy for almost everything! So, in an on-grid system, you draw the energy from the grid at times of need. You don’t have to pay for it!
It is a vice-versa process. Your panels generate excess energy during the day, and you supply it to the grid. When you draw energy from the grid for your needs, the cost gets adjusted.
Well, in an on-grid system, you can assume the grid is a gigantic battery.
This kind of system is called an on-grid PV system or solar power system.
Advantages of Not Having Batteries!
Solar batteries are costly. Having a grid-tied solar panels system without a battery makes sense financially. Going for a battery-free system can help you minimize the cost of installation.
We all know batteries have a specific lifespan. It depends on the type, usage, and level of battery discharge. Lead-acid batteries have a discharge rate of a maximum of 50%, and lithium-ion batteries have a discharge rate of a maximum of 80%.
Commonly you would have to replace your battery system minimum once during the span of the PV system.
When you’re adding a battery system to your panels, the complexity of your PV system rises. Designing and installing PV systems with batteries is very complicated. Make sure that the battery system is correctly sized for installation along with cables and switches. So, you see, the probability of things going wrong is a bit higher when you use batteries.
Thus, it is advantageous to use a grid-tied PV system without using a battery. Also, solar batteries are costly components of the system that need a cool place with proper ventilation. You might like to take care of something costly, but finding a suitable space and environment for these batteries is sometimes problematic.
So, installing PV systems with batteries or off-grid solar panels increases maintenance. It mainly depends on the type of battery you’re using. We have to keep the terminals clean for lead-acid batteries, and the water levels need to be occasionally topped up.
Normal water cannot be used for this. We need distilled water only. However, lithium-ion batteries are low maintenance. Some batteries have toxic chemicals that need special attention. It seems choosing an on-grid system is the most convenient!
Disadvantages of Not Having a Battery
But there are some disadvantages of not having a battery that you should consider beforehand.
Solar panels fail to produce sufficient electricity to fulfill your needs if not enough sunlight is there. And also, they produce too much electricity when basking in the sunlight.
Using a battery, you can store the excess energy to utilize as a backup energy source when your panels are not producing enough electricity. During blackouts, an on-grid system keeps feeding the grid with excess energy. It can be harmful in some cases.
An off-grid system is free from this risk.
Having batteries to store the excess energy makes your solar power system self-reliant. Most of the grids rely on fossil fuels to produce electricity. Adopting an off-grid system reduces your carbon footprint remarkably. You will be generating your 100% green energy.
Off-grid System Without Batteries
Although an off-grid system consists of battery storage, we can run it without a battery as well. Wait, there’s a problem. The off-grid system isn’t connected to the local power grid, so it cannot draw electricity from the grid even in case of any emergency. That’s why off-grid systems are known as Stand-Alone Power Systems.
If you’re not installing any batteries with your off-grid SAPS PV system, you can indeed run it but not always. When the solar panels are not getting enough sunlight or not any sunlight, the off-grid system cannot generate electricity.
We always need batteries for our off-grid system if we aim to get an autonomous power supply all the time. There is no public power grid in an off-grid system.
Once your panels are getting too much solar energy during the day or summer, excessive energy is produced that is not used in the household. That excess energy will be lost if your system lacks a storage device to store the energy.
This is not at all a rational approach. When you have batteries, excess energy will be sent off to your solar battery bank. And if the batteries are complete, they will stop receiving energy from the panels.
In remote areas where you don’t have access to the grid or in case you don’t want to access the grid electricity, you can depend on your off-grid solar power. But in this modern time, you need electricity for almost every work.
At night when the off-grid system stops working, having a battery can run your business, house, or appliances. Inverters can develop AC energy from DC batteries.
As of 2021, the average cost per watt for solar panels is $2-$3. Generally, a residential solar battery will cost between $8,000-$20,000 based upon your budget and need.
The installation cost of lithium-ion batteries is in the range of $7,000-$15,000. Looking for an escape from this cost and still producing your own green energy can be possible if you go for on-grid systems.
Basically, battery installation costs depend on the manufacturing company, the number of batteries you desire to install, labor costs, and other requirements. Solar batteries are crucial for those who live in an area of frequent power cuts or have no nearby grid to access electricity.
But if you opt for an on-grid system, your cost of solar panels installation reduces. You don’t need to buy an expensive battery. The average cost of installing a grid-tied solar power system for your home costs between $15,000-$22,000.
Most households pay around $18,000 for a 6kW on-grid system. This project can be possible for a low cost of around $7,000 for a 1.9kW on-grid system.
Community Solar Program
Did you know there is one more way where we don’t need batteries or other components at all! It is the Community Solar Program!
Community solar program is an emerging solar farm that sells the energy to the local houses and businesses instead of selling it to the utility grid. There is no global or national standard for what a Community Solar Program is actually like.
Briefly, community solar is a vast and relatively new project where customers can own a share or subscribe to use the energy produced by a utility grid or microgrid.
People can purchase the energy to run their houses, businesses, schools, and anything they want. In the Community Solar program, customers can lease a part of the solar panels from the array and just pay for it as per their use.
It is a substantial option for people who want to utilize green energy for the betterment of the planet but are unable to install solar panels. Also, if you are trying to avoid the heck of buying batteries, cables, panels, and installing your own solar power system, community solar is just the thing for them.
And some have houses at a place where sufficient sunlight doesn’t fall to generate ample electricity to satisfy needs.
Also, some people are unable to install solar panels due to insufficient space, or they do not own the place where they live. If they join the Community Solar program, they can use solar energy at a not very high rate.
In places, solar power is less expensive than the electricity produced by traditional power grids; you can save money on your electricity bill. If you’re a subscriber of the Community Solar Program, you can move to a new house inside the utility service. You can continue to use your solar energy share.
Community solar projects are measured in megawatts. Simply a single community project can light up thousands of homes.
Bye-bye to Batteries!
We don’t need batteries at home for community solar programs!
We don’t need to buy or install any kind of battery for our community solar. One is not going to install any solar powering system to own house. In community solar, we all will get energy from the utility grid of the locality.
It is different from other solar power systems. Anyone from the community solar will receive a monthly bill according to their electricity pulled from the grid. Community solar uses a method named Virtual Net Metering (VNM). It is the same way of metering how much your consumption is.
Cost of Community Solar Program
The Community Solar Program will effectively reduce your monthly consumption bill. You can save up to $10-$15. In large solar projects like the Community Solar Program, you have to pay $2-$2.50 per watt. In contrast, a residential solar energy system costs nearly $3-$3.50 per watt.
Feasibility Community Solar Program
So far, 40 states in the USA have Community Solar projects. It is a rapidly developing program and convenient as thousands of customers can be fed from one community.
This is also worthy for the investors in the Community Solar as, with time, it will provide an annual return. Also, Community solar farms potentially create employment possibilities.
Currently, saving our environment and making the Earth greener should be our first goal. Switching to solar energy from power grids can be a vital step towards a greener and cleaner Earth. We can see it is quite budget-friendly. If not now, then when?
We should start considering our Earth as a planet and think for the greater good. Leaving aside our surroundings, you must think globally and act accordingly. Implementing Solar power for your household and utilities can make you one of the changers who seek a healthy climate to leave behind.