Our guest blogger is Mark Mays, an applications engineer at Outback Power focusing on system design, configuration, field commissioning and troubleshooting of both off-grid and grid connected solar energy systems. Previous industry experience included power quality audits, product development of power quality analyzers, development and delivery of CEU training programs in power quality and electrical troubleshooting for the electrical utility industry, licensed electricians and electrical engineers.
One of the challenges with solar energy has always been storage. Installations produce a great deal of electricity to support a home or business, only to send the excess power back to the grid. This is especially problematic because the peak solar generation period occurs in the middle of the day, when utilities and consumers need it least. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that the cost of photovoltaic (PV) equipment is continuing to decrease, while our collective electricity consumption during nighttime hours continues to grow.
There’s a solution emerging in energy storage-based inverters. Also known as grid-hybrid inverters, they’re equipped with technology that can regulate usage to direct excess power back to the grid or store it if necessary. The grid is definitely getting smart, but it still has a ways to go. Integrating smart, battery-backed inverters can now give system owners some of those long-rumored benefits of the smart grid. The technology woven into the system helps consumers save even more money since no energy produced from solar is wasted.
Grid connection timers built into battery-based inverters can automate the process for users. The timers are programmed to disconnect from the utility grid as necessary. Customers can use the inverters to go off grid during times of day that come with peak surcharges. Ultimately, cost saving has always been an attractive benefit for consumers moving to solar. The evolution of the equipment’s technology has made it easier to see these benefits.
Moreover, excess power produced by the inverter paired with energy storage can qualify end users for rebates or credits from local utility companies or governments. Being able to store produced electricity has put battery-based inverters on the top of customers’ shopping lists, diminishing reliance on the grid during peak times and helping people to manage their energy consumption more proactively.
For years, experts and consumers alike have waited for smart grid technology that is likely still years away from becoming a reality. New features in storage-backed inverters have started to offer some of those features, which deliver benefits for everyone. Aside from a decreased financial burden, storing energy diminishes a utility’s need to operate expensive, wasteful spinning reserves. Peak demand times will always result in a surge in production and use. They don’t, however, have to affect consumers financially to the level they once did. As inverters that use energy storage get smarter, it’s possible to experience smart grid-like benefits today.