Don’t be left in the dark: How to maximise your solar

In days gone by, when the sun went down, your solar solution became ineffective. The potential to connect a battery to your inverter, means those days could be a thing of the past.

There are a few steps to making the most of solar power. A tailored solution to ensure your solar system meets your energy needs and requirements is a start. Then, just like our cars, solar systems require cleaning and servicing to remove obstructions and to check all electrical connections are working at optimum level. But when the sun goes down, the question is often asked: “How effective is my solar at night?”

With the rise of batteries, you can get even more from your solar solution. Here’s what you need to know:

The power of solar batteries

Recent innovations, along with products launching in the Aussie market like AGL’s Power Advantage, mean batteries look to change the way that solar power functions in Australia. At a base level, future solar solutions will allow your panels to power your home during the day, as well as charging the battery pack to supplement your power at night. This reduces your reliance on the grid and can lead to cost savings.

Getting inverted

If you already have solar installed, you’ll need to check if your current inverter is battery compatible, meaning can your inverter communicate with a battery converter.

In some instances, it’s actually more economical to replace your existing inverter with an energy storage appliance or hybrid inverter. This combines the functions of a battery inverter and solar inverter in one package and smartly connects your solar PV to your battery using DC power.

But, as with all things electrical, consult a specialist (like an AGL solar expert) to ensure you’re getting the right advice for your circumstances – every home and business is different.

Size matters

Traditionally, when we think of battery size, we think in the number of As it has. But when it comes to solar, they’re measured in kWh (this is the same energy measure you’ll see on you power bill). Batteries for residential homes come in a range of sizes starting at 3kWh up to 20kWh. For commercial installations, battery size can be as big as 1000kWh.

If you already have a solar system, it’s tempting to base your battery size on your highest daily solar export (most likely summer). But this may not be the most effective battery, as it will only charge to capacity on a limited number of days. To fully maximise your battery, you’ll want it to actually match the size to your lowest daily export (winter), ensuring it’s fully used every day.

Where do the solar batteries live?

Battery systems are very quiet, which is great news because they should be kept undercover. To ensure their longevity, it’s recommended they’re kept indoors in a place with good airflow for cooling, such as a garage. 

Control your stored power

Another great benefit of using batteries is that you can control when you use its power. AGL Power Advantage allows you to store, charge and discharge power, so if you’re out at night, or decide to go away for the weekend, you don’t need to use it and can save it for a cloudy day.

So can I go off grid?

Not quite. AGL’s Energy Storage Lead, Ed Lynch-Bell says it makes sense to stay connected to the grid.

“To go fully off grid you need to have enough battery capacity to cover you for multiple cloudy days, which can get very expensive.

“Your best option right now is to use storage to maximise your solar self-consumption and top up from the grid as required.”

What’s the charge?

Battery systems vary in cost and are based on size and your current solar solution. Determining whether your existing inverter is battery compatible will also influence installation costs.

Once installed, batteries offer a range of benefits. Not only can they help reduce your power bills even further, there may be opportunities in the future to trade energy with your neighbours and sell power back to the network.