How to Make Your Home Energy Independent

Catalyst, a highly-regarded Australian weekly science program, has produced an excellent episode describing in a very accessible yet in-depth manner the technology that is enabling single-family homes and multi-family communities to vastly reduce their reliance on the electrical grid through the use of solar panels, battery storage, and energy management systems.

In one particularly illustrative example, we meet a homeowner who had solar panels but no batteries, so he was vastly overproducing during the day (and, due to his utility’s rate structure, being paid relatively little) and still needing to buy approximately 60% of his daily electricity from the grid at night. After installing an 8 kWh battery with an energy management system, after one month he was getting more than 40% of his energy from his solar panels (as before), 53% from his battery (which was charged by the excess power generated by his solar panels) and only 3% from the grid.

The show also discusses:

  • An overview of the grid, the need to consume power as it’s produced, and the significant added value that batteries bring to solar panels;
  • Home battery systems, such as that offered by Tesla, as well as leasing programs offered by Australian utility Ergon Energy;
  • Residential energy management systems responding to realtime price signals in the wholesale market to provide a revenue stream to the homeowner while giving the grid operator access to relatively low-cost and instantaneous capacity at peak times;
  • How batteries work, including an interview with a professor who is developing a zinc-bromine battery that reportedly is better than today’s lithium-ion batteries in terms of cost, energy density, speed of charge, and shape; and
  • Megawatt-size battery arrays that give large multifamily community residents access to the benefits of storage.

Whether batteries are economical for a particular home or business depends on many factors, such as:

  • The customer’s rate structure (in particular the availability of and pricing for net metering or a fee-in tariff);
  • The customer’s load profile;
  • Practical or regulatory limitations on the capacity of a solar array;
  • Reliability of the customer’s access to power; and
  • Cost of a battery storage and energy management system.

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