Need power during loadshedding so you can work, cook, or watch tv? Solar power may be the answer. Here are the pros and cons of using a solar battery for power during loadshedding in South Africa.
Are Solar Batteries Good for Loadshedding?
Yes, solar batteries can form part of an excellent solution for keeping the lights on when Eskom fails us. A power outage occurs when the power you receive from the supplier on the national grid gets cut off. The only way to get power supply then would be through a backup power system.
Solar energy is an excellent alternative energy source ideal for use in South Africa, since we have a lot of sunshine hours. But if the power goes off at night, solar won’t help you unless you have solar batteries that can store the power you collect through solar panels during daylight hours.
What is a Solar Battery?
Solar batteries store energy produced through the conversion of solar radiation into electricity. Your solar panels collect solar radiation. The solar radiation then passes through an inverter that turns it into electricity you could use in your home or office. From there, it gets stored in a solar battery so you can use it later.
How is it Different from a Normal Battery?
Solar batteries aren’t the same as regular batteries because they store energy from the sun, while normal batteries store electricity from your grid. Off-grid and grid-tied solar systems use solar batteries as one of their key components. Solar batteries have been specifically designed to process solar energy instead of regular power.
4 Types of Solar Batteries in South Africa
Lead Acid Solar Battery
People have used the good old faithful lead acid battery to store energy since the 1800s! Lead-acid batteries are reliable and have stood the test of time. They are widely used in the solar battery world.
There are two types of lead acid solar battery South Africa’s energy companies use: flooded lead-acid batteries, and sealed lead-acid batteries.
Many experts prefer to use these batteries in their power systems because they are low maintenance and don’t emit any harmful gases while they are charging. They are great for off-grid solar systems and emergency backup storage with power outages or loadshedding.
- Price. Cheapest, most cost-effective solar battery
- Reliability. These types of batteries are reliable and time-tested, having been used for over 200 years.
- Sustainability. They are easy to recycle and dispose of, making them a sustainable energy source.
- Maintenance. Requires ventilation and regular maintenance. This can increase the chances of the battery leaking.
- Placement. Can’t be placed on their sides, so they can only be installed in certain ways and in certain places.
- Depth of Discharge. They have a low depth of discharge, so they need to be charged more.
- Lifespan. They have a lifespan of 5 to 10 years.
Lithium-Ion Solar Battery
Although lithium ion batteries are fairly new in the solar storage industry, they have quickly become one of the most widely used solar battery types in the world. EV manufacturers use lithium ion batteries in their electric vehicles. They are also ideal for use in residential installations.
Because they can hold more power in a smaller space, they allow you to store more energy. This makes the lithium-ion battery ideal for use as solar power batteries in homes, cars, and even small businesses.
- Lifespan. They have a longer lifespan because they have a higher depth of discharge.
- Usable Capacity. because of this, they need to be charged less, and you can use more of the stored power before they need to be charged again.
- Warranty. Many come with a 10-year guaranteed warranty.
- Battery Density. Higher battery density equals greater battery capacity that takes up less space. This means they can hold more energy than lead acid batteries.
- Maintenance. Lithium batteries need almost no regular maintenance.
- Price. These batteries are more expensive than other energy storage technologies.
- Fire Risk. They pose a higher fire risk because of what’s called a “thermal runway”. If installed correctly, this won’t be an issue.
Nickel Cadmium Solar Batteries
Although they have been around since the late 1800s, Nickel-Cadmium batteries only became more widely used after the 1980s. This was when scientists figured out how to increase their capacity a lot. They are still not as widely used as other battery types.
People often use these batteries in the aircraft industry. They are also ideal for large-scale applications like factories and macro enterprises or utility solar energy storage because they are very durable.
- Durability. Ni-Cd batteries are known for their durability. They are one of the most durable batteries in existence.
- Temperature. They can operate at extremely high temperatures.
- Simplicity. You don’t need complex management systems to use these batteries, and they are basically maintenance free.
- Toxicity. Cadmium is an extremely toxic substance that is banned in some countries.
- Sustainability. They are hard to dispose of ethically because they are so toxic.
- Depth of Discharge. Their ability to hold a charge is limited because of what’s called the memory effect.
Flow batteries work thanks to a chemical reaction in water-based electrolyte liquids that flow between 2 separate chambers within the battery. As an emerging technology, these batteries are now becoming more popular. They solve some issues with other types of batteries yet present their own unique challenges.
Flow batteries are larger, making them ideal for industrial and other types of large-scale installations. This also makes them more difficult to adapt for residential use, especially since they are very costly.
- Depth of Discharge. This is the only battery type with a 100% depth of discharge. That means you can use all the power stored in the battery before charging it again.
- Lifespan. Fewer charges mean you won’t damage the battery as fast. Because of this and other factors, they have a lifespan of up to 30 years!
- Fire Risk. Flow batteries are fire retardant and have no risk of a thermal runaway.
- Maintenance. These batteries are low maintenance.
Price. These are, unfortunately, the most expensive batteries out there.
Storage Capacity. Their storage capacity is quite low, so in order to get a substantial amount of energy, your installation needs to be much bigger.
Charge & Discharge Rates. They also need to be bigger because they have very low charge and discharge rates. This means they take up much more space.
The Pros and Cons of Using a Solar Battery for Power During Loadshedding
- Power Your House. You can power your essential household items day and night with enough solar panels and batteries.
- Sunshine Hours. South Africa’s many sunshine hours mean you benefit more than many other countries in the world from solar.
- Nighttime Use. Power collected during the day can be used at night or even the next day.
- Security & Light. You don’t have to sit in the dark, buy candles, invest in torches, or worry about the security of your home when grid failure occurs.
- Lifestyle. You won’t miss your favourite shows or a hot shower or get behind on your workload when loadshedding hits.
- Sustainability. You can contribute to a greener future for our world by using sustainable energy like solar instead of non-renewable energy sources like coal-powered electricity from Eskom.
- Savings. Save on your municipal bills with a solar power solution customised to you.
- Environmentally Conscious Living. A solar system can help you become more aware of your power consumption and help you reduce the amounts of electricity used from day-to-day in your home and business.
- Protect Electronics. Protect your electronic devices against the damage that comes with rolling blackouts with a constant energy supply thanks to a solar system. This means your fridge, tv, laptop, and other appliances will last longer.
- Less Stress. Enjoy peace of mind with back-up power you can rely on. Lower stress means a more enjoyable daily life.
- Solar System Size. You may need more batteries and solar panels than you realised.
- Space. You will need space to put the system up. If you choose a system that is noisy, you will need to find a quiet spot. This can sometimes be a challenge.
- Solar Battery Cost. Solar battery prices in South Africa are relatively affordable, but it can get expensive if your power load is large. For example, if you have a large household with multiple members working from home, your backup power system needs to be larger.
- Capacity. If you don’t get a big enough solar system, it may not give you enough power to get through stage 4 of loadshedding.
- Battery. If you do not get battery storage with solar power systems, they may not be useful for load shedding at night or when sun hours are low. A means of storing your solar power is essential.
- Long-Term Costs. Solar systems are relatively low maintenance, but keep in mind that over the years the battery cells will degrade, and the solar panels will collect less power. This isn’t surprising but is something to keep in mind when budgeting long term.
- Installation. Installation of solar photovoltaic systems can become complex. You will need professional help.
- Type of System & Battery. Different systems work better for different needs. Business owners and homeowners will need different types of systems that use different batteries. If you get the wrong system, you may end up paying more than you planned and benefitting less. That’s why professional advice beforehand is essential to find the best solar battery for your needs and budget.