Energy storage systems with the capacity to power homes and businesses are no longer a distant fantasy. Batteries that can store enough power to run domestic and non-domestic buildings are being installed around the world and the burgeoning technology and delivers benefits for businesses, the energy infrastructure and broader society.
Businesses benefit because they can offset peak-time energy consumption by purchasing more electricity at off-peak times and storing it to use during times of peak demand.
Your ability to follow this type of energy strategy depends on the availability of ‘time of day’ energy tariffs. These kinds of tariffs are becoming more common, even for domestic buyers, as the smart meter rollout makes it easier to administer variable time tariffs.
Businesses and homes with solar panels also stand to gain significantly from energy storage technology. They can make self-generated electricity more valuable by storing it when the sun shines and using it in the evenings and at night, instead of exporting surplus energy to the national grid.
Energy storage technology has been described as the missing piece of the energy equation by Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk. He believes that reliable energy storage technology will revolutionise energy infrastructure and how we deliver power to where it is needed.
Because energy is difficult to store, its means that energy supply needs to keep up with energy demand and power plants have to keep increasing or decreasing output in line with how much power the country is using.
Turning generators on and off is inefficient and creates a great deal of waste. Energy storage systems can help temper swings in demand and help energy companies operate more efficiently.
Energy storage also makes renewable power more viable because it means that energy can be stored up when the sun shines or the wind blows and used when efficiently when renewable generation is lower.
The technology is still young but the potential has attracted interest from some of the world’s largest technology companies. Tesla has been a pioneer of on-site batteries, with the Tesla Powerwall technology launched for homes across the globe.
Tesla also offer a scaled-up version of the technology, known as Powerpack
, to businesses in the UK. Businesses that purchase energy on flexible tariffs can purchase energy smartly in response to supply and demand considerations.
Nissan recently announced that it would be building the first UK home batteries from its Sunderland plant, where they currently make the popular Leaf electronic cars. Homeowners, the Japanese company says, will be able to choose between cheaper used batteries that are no longer fit for use in electric cars and pricier new ones.
Despite there clearly being products on offer, the UK has been slow to adopt the technology.
In part, this is due to weak proliferation of solar panels in the UK. In other countries where more residential and commercial premises are covered in cells (and where they have more sun), such as Australia and Germany, the technology has taken off more quickly.
The technology is also expensive and it has a limited lifespan. Home and business energy storage systems can cost thousands to install and, because of limits to current battery technology, will only last for 10-15 years.
The young technology is always improving though. Many early adopters are seeing benefits from the system and we will likely see more domestic buyers and non-domestic companies investing in the systems.