Europe Goes Green, Consumers Embrace Home Batteries

When there is a focus on a particular field with an increased demand for its products, there’s bound to be more research and technological development to improve the quality.

Similarly, the solar sector has gone through a rampant shift with a bullish growth prediction. A few decades ago, we never considered a solar panel because the price was astronomical. But over the past few years, the cost of purchasing a solar unit has come down slowly and then precipitously. 

For instance, Adrian Scott is a 47-year old economist living in the suburbs of Nottingham. He lives in a two-story house with his wife and their two sons. Even though the Scott’s aren’t wealthy or an environmental enthusiast, they have agreed to spend about $36,000 for their home solar system. 

Plus, the unit that they got installed on the roof comes with 26 solar panels, and a smart small-sized battery- stored in the basement.

During sunny days, the photovoltaic panels can power all the appliances in the Scott’s household, and it has sufficient energy to charge the hybrid car. After these basic energy requirements are met, the power that is generated in the rooftop starts loading up the stationery battery. This not only helps to store sufficient energy for the night but also for cloudy days.

Once the battery is fully charged, the unit’s digital control system functions to redirect the excess energy to the national power grid automatically. For this energy transfer, they will also be receiving compensation from their local grid operator.

Moreover, the unit has a smart software that makes it easier for this family to monitor the consumption, production, and storage of electricity. The digital system can also track the actual time when the feed-in of power to the grid has taken place.

Unlike gas, coal, and petrol, the energy that is produced by solar panels is entirely clean. Plus, a large percentage of energy bills are also saved in the long run by installing a solar unit. You can expect a complete return on investment within a maximum of ten years. 

Consumers embrace home batteries

It has been reported that one in every two orders for solar units that have been received consists of a requirement for a battery storage system. Plus, Ikea, the home furnishing company, is also selling installed solar packages, which include storage capacity. 

Furthermore, the price of the battery has hit rock bottom pretty dramatically, which resulted in scraping down the battery rebates that were earlier given by the German development bank. The rebate covered around 30 percent of the initial investment, which was offered from 2013 to 2022.

The Scotts are one of more than 7,00,000 European households and small-scale business owners- along with an estimated 1.5 million people globally- who have managed to invest in a solar unit with battery storage. 

This rapid increase of solar-powered households is mainly due to the lower-cost systems that started to flourish in the market for the last five years. 

Philip Kairies, an expert on power generation and storage system, says, “No one expected this kind of growth, so fast.” Many other renowned scientists were also astounded by the prevailing scenario where more and more families and business owners are opting for solar units.  

To be precise, 7,00,000 small businesses and households represent a very small fraction of Europe’s 507 million people. 

But when it comes to studying the benefits and predictions of solar power, analysts say that the recent growth in this sector shows a significant transformation to adopt a green vision for the future- a solar panel on every roof, a battery in every basement, and an electric vehicle in every garage.

With a gradual increase in the demand for solar units, we can expect to walk into a better foreseeable future. Analysts believe that with clean energy making the rounds, and the need for solar batteries is shown to be a vital step toward a future. Why you ask? Well! It’s going to brilliant to watch how low-carbon economies start relying on an increasingly decentralized as well as fluctuating renewable energy supplies. 

Nonetheless, there are a lot of advances in the solar power arena but not much development when it comes to electricity storage. 

The features that cover up this drawback is related to the decreasing price range of batteries and their high power capacity, which makes them capable enough to store uneven output of solar and wind power. 

When there is a quality battery that supports solar energy, it also offers an excellent amount of flexibility, which is essential for a weather-dependent power source.

Europe’s solar sector was almost crashing since the last decade, but it was only in the previous years that solar panels and battery systems started to gain a higher prominence. Such changes are the result of the low-cost production of solar units in China and the sudden drop in the lithium-ion battery price range.

Moreover, you could also see a progressive decline of the feed-in tariffs, which guaranteed compensation for consumers that supply energy to the grid. This is another essential factor that had contributed to the drop in solar energy deployment.

But even after being subjected to an imminent failure in business, companies such as Enerix, Solarwatt, and Sonnen have come back into the picture thanks to the quality home energy storage systems. To boast of, Germany itself has about 44 manufacturing companies for home energy storage systems, which sounds like the start of a remarkable movement.

In 2012, Enerix had to close down almost eight of its 15 subsidiary groups in Austria and Germany. For the best part, after the great start of the battery industry, Enerix has reopened many of its old shops, and they are out to venture for new stores too. Today this same company is a renowned seller with 54 outlets that sell batteries, solar panels, and battery optimization systems.

The Europeans had installed more than 5 million solar panel arrays on building rooftops, but most of the units lacked a storage unit. In recent times, most of those homeowners are purchasing batteries for better efficiency of solar energy.

On an interesting note, German electricity storage units are increasing in popularity with orders from Italy, France, Spain, Great Britain, and the Netherlands as well as South Korea and Australia. 

The cost of a home storage system depends on a few essential factors, the knowledge of which comes of great use when finding for the right unit. Plus, the price tag is decided upon not only based on the business or house size but also components such as- the buildings’ access to sunlight, the owner’s energy needs, and the quality of the batteries, panels, and management systems.

If you’re trying to power a small house, you’ll need to install around 20 panels that can cost you somewhere between $8,000 and $11,000 for the solar panel arrays. And the battery price with the DC/AC inverter is also around the same range. The most massive home batteries in Europe cost around $34,000. 

But, in addition to the underlying solar unit cost, you’ll also need to spend an extra of $500 for the advanced devices that connect the system to various household appliances, regulates the feed-in to the grid, and optimize energy use. 

With the right amount of sunlight and brilliant solar technology features, a consumer can save approximately 80 percent on their electricity bills, according to the Dresden-based outfit manufacturing smart tech- Solarwatt.

But one of the experts of Enerix Berlin has said that the economics of inexpensive battery systems is not the only essential factor that motivates most battery system buyers who have opted for solar power. Matthias Sculnick also mentions that people, in general, are gradually trying to get rid of depending on the power companies and their rising budgets. 

Most of us are inspired by a few of the global leaders who are trying to make sustainable changes to ensure that we leave behind a green footprint. In Europe, it has taken a few years for the home storage units to not only be a favorite among Green Party voters and tech nerds but also comes with massive mainstream potential.

After studying the economics of the solar energy market consulting firm McKinsey predicts that the overall cost of energy storage system will drop by almost 50 to 70 percent worldwide in the next 5-10years. This high influx of solar power is mainly due to the economies of scale, the result of design advances, and streamlined processes.

Many companies and businesses are showing a good amount of interest to incorporate solar power into their organizational plan. When you look around, you’ll notice an explosion in interest in almost every part of this world. For instance, the premium Dutch oil company called Royal Dutch Shell has recently purchased Sonnen, which is one of the leading manufacturers of home batteries in Germany. 

You’ll find pretty exciting business endeavors that have been made by German utility giant E.ON. The business plans of this company are way ahead than the others who have recently stepped into this market. We say this mainly because E.ON had paired up with Solarwatt in the year 2016 to sell a combo of solar-and-battery units.

A U.S.-based trade group, The Energy Storage Association, projects that the energy storage capacity will increase by about eight-fold from 2015 to 2022. This industry will be worth more than $2.5 billion by the end of 2022. 

Plus, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that within the next two decades, the global energy storage market will be attracting $620 billion in investment. 

Panels for home

Many countries have come up with their laws regarding sustainable development to ensure that a greener future is being planned. In California, as of 2022, there is an excellent law in place for all newly constructed buildings- it needs to be outfitted with solar panels. The homeowners of these residential units will be focusing on battery systems even more after they notice a drop in the prices.

Additionally, home batteries started trending even more among consumers who own electric vehicles. But there is a downside to the lowering costs of storage units because if you’re buying the solar unit from your savings on energy bills, it will take about ten years to pay off. On the flip side, these batteries come with a lifespan of about somewhere between 10 and 15 years. After this, you’ll need to purchase a new storage system.

The development in this field is mainly due to the spectacular advances related to the performance of lithium-ion batteries and energy prices. This battery type is the standard quality that is found in most cell phones and electric vehicles. 

In laboratory conditions, the technicians who had been working to improve the quality of only the electric vehicle batteries were able to double the storage capacity. They managed to increase the density of the lithium-ion battery by tweaking the chemicals and the conductors. This made the price of storage, which is measured per watt-hour, drop by almost half its standard rates.

Even when we focus on the price of solar panels, it has plummeted over time, and now it’s become more budget-friendly than ever before. Experts have differing opinions on the future of battery-based storage systems, and it’s on decentralized energy generation.

For instance, Julia Poliscanova, who is part of the Brussels-based non-governmental group Transport and Environment, states that lithium-ion batteries will continue to rule the battery market in the foreseeable future. 

With the rise of the recycled EV batteries that have minimal capacity for cars but are sufficient enough for household needs will reduce the costs even further. Even though such changes are taking place, the demand for lithium-ion batteries is going to manifold, says Julia.

While the others like Stefano Passerini, director of a battery research center in Germany, Helmholtz Institute says that the next generation of small-scale storage units will be sodium-ion batteries. This invention in battery technologies doesn’t require cobalt, which is mined chemical elements- pretty challenging to find in the market. But, cobalt is commonly used in making lithium-ion batteries.

If you focus on the storage capacity, you’ll understand that home battery should be larger than EV batteries; therefore, cobalt can be used for charging cars. However, when it comes to home storage, you can opt for something other than the lithium-ion batteries, says Stefano.

Then, you have got environmentally friendly batteries like recyclable saltwater batteries. These batteries don’t contain scarce minerals or carcinogenic heavy metals, and clean-energy pioneer EWS Schonau is engineering it.

Irrespective of the battery types, home energy storage technologies can help to smoothen out the fluctuations in electricity production, a function that is known as “balancing.” When the grid is loaded with power, the grid operators can provide remuneration to battery owners for storing the excess for them. This refers even to the ones without a solar array attached to them. 

Plus, when the grid needs power, both car and home batteries can feed the excess energy into the grid with an advanced set of technologies. Furthermore, experts usually emphasize that balancing is essential to the larger project when it comes to aiming for a low-carbon production globally.

But we can’t expect such radical changes in the solar industry any time soon. The result of the development in home storage units is pretty sufficient to make a small difference in leaving a green footprint. 

There is another new model of sharing energy between neighbors and tenants with a standard cost based on the total units being shared, which is known as peer-to-peer electricity trading. With the implementation of such home storage technologies, consumers that lack access to home-generated power can take advantage of the clean energy being produced in excess by other households.  

The renewable energy industry is evolving with time, and it has plenty of opportunities in place to scale this up by aiming to encourage a positive, global energy transformation. Europe has over 7,00,000 home generation and storage systems, but it requires a more significant move to ensure that the Paris goals are met in time. 

It’s evident that there is a considerable potential to embark on a better future by making some significant changes along the way. But that requires cutting down the energy-consumption taxes on households and businesses that generate electricity for their individual use. Also, the government should maintain solar energy guaranteed tariffs for encouraging greater investment. 

However, by installing more energy storage technologies like electric utilities, solar batteries, and grid operators, there will be better management in place for controlling the flow of energy from renewable sources. 

Overall, with an expansion of the home storage system and the inclusion of investment as well as production incentives, there will be an improved market for solar power. In the long run, this will help the environment by reducing the consumers’ energy costs.

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