So far outside the box you can't even see the box from here.
Monday, December 12, 2016
Good old lead acid batteries
There are two common types of home solar electric systems. There's totally grid connected. They are pretty straight forward. Solar panels are directly connected to grid. The energy generated is credited towards your monthly bill. Once it's installed the homeowner doesn't have to think about it. It just works.
The other common type is for off-grid systems. The solar panels feed your own battery bank. You are responsible for managing your power use and storage. It's more hands on, but you are independent from the grid and never get a utility bill.
There are some hybrids of the two major systems. Some grid-tied systems have small battery banks for emergency use during blackouts. Otherwise, even though their panels were generating power, they could not use it.
I've got a simple system that's set up to be mostly off-grid. The solar panels cannot back feed into the grid. However, I can change the battery bank from the grid. My configuration normally uses the grid like a backup generator.
Lately I've been using the grid a bit more than I'd like. My house battery bank is on its last legs. It's been in service for almost 11 years, a long time for golf cart batteries. Now a smart person would have put a little bit of money aside over the last 11 years for when the replacement comes due. Yep, that's what a smart person would do. I wasn't that smart.
By spring I should have the funds to replace the battery bank. I'm using 12, 6 volt golf cart batteries. They are wired up to provide 24 volts which supplies an inverter that makes normal house AC. The advantage of golf cart batteries is that they are common and can be carried by one person -a strong person, but not a freakishly strong person. They can be swapped out in a day.
There have been some advances in battery technology. Batteries have always been one of the big limiting factors of alternative energy. When I first put in solar electric I'd hoped batteries would have improved by now. They have, but not at a price point that makes sense to me. Maybe Tesla's gigafactory will eventually bring the prices down low enough for me to consider them in the future.
For now I'll be going back to good old fashioned flooded lead acid batteries. They lack the energy density of the new batteries, but it doesn't really matter. It's not like in an electric car that has to haul the weight of the batteries. My battery bank sits quietly in a box in the basement. Every few months I pop the cover and check the water level in the batteries and top them off if necessary.
Even though I've had to use the grid a bit more, my bills are still very low. Since my house was designed for off-grid power it uses energy efficiently. That being said, it will be nice to have a full power battery system once more.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.