Why is Electric Ireland testing Solar Panels and Battery Storage Units?

BallyferriterWith the help of 20 Electric Ireland customers, we are collaborating with ESB Networks, Solo Energy and the International Energy Research Centre to test solar panels and battery storage units in Ballyferriter Co. Kerry.

Twenty homes in Ballyferriter are currently using 10kWh smart battery storage units to help save money on their energy bills and ease the pressure on the national grid at peak hours. In its simplest terms, the idea is to store energy generated at night in a battery and use that energy during the day. That means less demand on the power grid during the day and lower energy costs for the customer.

The Storenet project

The study is designed to help us to understand how these units are used in the home and how they can help to improve energy efficiency across the whole country. Each battery-equipped home comes with monitoring equipment that generates data for the study and lets our participants see how the battery and/or solar panels are helping to power their homes.

The data we gather will help us to plan for a future where individual homes can generate and store their own energy and share excess energy with others.
Storenet Project

How are participants saving money?

As demand is lower at night, we currently offer a reduced ‘nightsaver’ rate for electricity used at night. If you have a day and night meter, this gives you an opportunity to save money on electricity by heating your water, running large appliances like dishwashers or charging storage heaters overnight. A battery storage unit is a more versatile and hi-tech evolution of this idea for the entire home - you use the battery instead of the grid during the day and then recharge it at night. Meaning most of your electricity usage is paid at the lower rate.

These battery storage units can also help outside of the home, through ‘localised network voltage support’. This is used to produce or absorb electricity when needed. When too much electricity is being produced, a homeowner’s battery storage unit can absorb the excess. When demand peaks, the batteries can temporarily supply energy to other premises.

In other words, if the grid is producing too much electricity now, your battery can store it and then share it with your neighbour when the demand goes up. This project will generate data to help our project consortium partners study the use of a homeowner’s battery storage unit for localised network voltage support.

Why Solar Panels and Battery Storage Units are perfect partners

A number of the study’s participants in Ballyferriter have also had their homes fitted with Photovoltaic solar modules (Solar PV panels). Solar PV panels are the classic solar panels that we’re starting to see appear on more and more homes up and down the country. As you might expect, these panels convert light into electricity for use in your home.

This technology is a perfect partner for battery storage units because solar panels generate ‘use it or lose it’ electricity. Sunshine is at its most intense in the early afternoon - this means that PV panels produce their highest output at a time when a household’s electricity demand is generally low. Without a battery, much of that output could be lost, but with these units, the battery stores the electricity so it can be used later.

This becomes even more useful when you consider that the battery storage units also charge overnight. So, for example, you start the day with a fully charged battery and it helps to power the home through electric showers, breakfast cooking and hairdryers in the morning. When the sunshine reaches its afternoon peak, and the house isn’t using much electricity, the solar panels can recharge the battery storage unit so it’s ready for the heavy lighting, cooking and TV demand that evening.

How will this change how we use energy?

The long-term goal of this study is to understand how Irish homes could be integrated into a distributed energy network.

A distributed energy network incorporates homes’ battery storage and private renewable units into the national grid. Meaning that power generated in one home is available for use in another. The ability to ‘give and take’ power  like this will lower the nation’s peak energy demand and mitigate the ‘use it or lose it’ nature of most renewable energy sources. These are vital steps in lowering the amount of CO₂ Ireland produces to power its homes and businesses.

For now, in Ballyferriter, 20 households are reducing their impact on the environment and getting cheaper electricity bills. In the long term, we will all see the benefits of more efficient energy use and lower carbon output.

Interested in getting the benefits of solar PV panels in your home?

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