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November 5

Solar Panel Efficiency and Storage

Have you ever wondered about solar energy and storage? Some believe that solar power can't be stored. It can be, and solar batteries are one technology in current use.

Most solar installations put excess power that the home or business isn't using back into the electric grid. An alternative is a solar battery, which greatly enhances solar panel efficiency. When a solar system is generating more electricity than needed during peak times, it can deliver power and charge the battery. During off-peak hours, the system uses power from the battery. Solar systems with storage can also be connected to the electrical grid and can sell power back to the grid or draw power from the grid if needed.

Solar and storage: How Does Solar Energy Storage Work?

Solar power systems using photovoltaic (PV) cells collect energy from the sun and route the power to an inverter. The inverter can deliver power to a storage battery and also to your home. If excess power is produced by the PV cells, it can be stored in the battery or fed back into the grid. Using an electric meter, the solar system's functioning is monitored. You can maintain solar panel efficiency, charge the battery, and use solar power on cloudy days or at night. You can also use power from the electrical grid to power your home if needed. 

energy pyramid, going from bottom to top: conservation, efficiency, renewable energy

Some types of batteries used for power storage (not all are used with solar systems) include:

solar panel efficiency cartoon

  • Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries: the type of batteries currently used in electric vehicles.
  • Redox Flow and Vanadium Redox Flow (VRB) batteries: a large battery that delivers lower energy, but is suited for large-scale uses, including grid energy storage.
  • Nickel-Cadmium (NI-CD) batteries: the familiar batteries we see in use for small battery-powered devices.
  • Sodium Sulfur (NaS) batteries: a battery that operates at high temperatures offering high efficiency, currently in use in Japan and Abu Dhabi.
  • Other types of batteries include: lead acid, saltwater, iron-chromium (ICB) and zinc-bromine (ZNBR) batteries.

Li-Ion batteries are the most commonly-used battery for home solar power use. They have a lifespan of 5 to 15 years and operate best in moderate temperatures. In New Brunswick, you will need to have a battery with temperature modulation enabling you to use it effectively in cold winter temperatures and the occasional hot summer's day.

How will greater solar power efficiency benefit New Brunswick financially?

NB Power reports that solar systems that generate power and store it can save $0.20/kWh, which is about 50 to 70 per cent more than a solar system hooked to the power grid. New Brunswick's first solar farm produces enough power for about eight average homes. The farm's owner told CBC News that he had enough power for his farm and a little extra which he sells to NB Power. Additional solar towers built on his farm would allow him to sell more energy back to NB Power.

Financial benefits of solar power increase with the capacity for solar energy storage. New Brunswick has an average of 1,142 hours of full sunlight a year. If excess energy from full sunlight hours can be stored, a residential solar system would offer more financial benefits than one without solar power storage. Adding solar power storage makes even more financial sense. If you want to invest local, solar power is a good option.

How will more efficient solar power benefit New Brunswick's environment?

rock formations by water

New Brunswick has set a goal of achieving 40% of provincial power from renewable energy by 2020. While wind power has provided most of the clean energy in the province up to now, solar power is also renewable and clean, benefiting the environment. Solar technology is continuously evolving and improving. Costs are lower and with solar storage capacity, the main barrier to using solar in New Brunswick is gone.

New Brunswick has the potential to change completely to renewable, environmentally-sound energy and solar power with storage can be part of the process, along with wind, small-scale and tidal hydro, geothermal, and biomass energy. Biomass energy from natural sources (co-generation with paper mills and agricultural facilities) which provides no net greenhouse gases to contribute to climate change. 

Solar energy with storage is environmentally-friendly, contributing no carbon emissions to the atmosphere. The 40-hectare solar farm proposed near Bathurst could offset about 82,000 tonnes of CO2 over its 25-year operating lifetime. This equals the carbon footprint for about 3,500 families using conventional fuels and energy.  

What does this mean for homeowners?

Solar energy storage makes solar power easier to use in New Brunswick, offering more financial and environmental benefits due to increased solar panel efficiency. The system could produce anywhere from 20 to 100 percent of the power needed to run a home, according to NB Power.

Homeowners could lock in their power rates for 30 or more years by installing a solar system. Adding storage will solve concerns about cloudy or rainy days. Connecting the system to the power grid will enable the use of grid power when necessary.

Is using solar energy in your community a good idea? 

people having a picnic in park at sunset

NB Power reports that since 2015, New Brunswick residents have saved $100.85 million in energy costs by switching to renewable energy. They've also taken the equivalent of nearly 30,000 cars off the roads in greenhouse gas reductions. Renewable energy projects have invested $77.5 million in the provincial economy.

You have opportunities to improve your home's value and the environment by installing a solar power system with storage. You may also find investment opportunities in New Brunswick/Fredericton for solar power. New Brunswick's renewable energy program is one of the strongest among Canadian provinces.

With the number of cloudy days in New Brunswick, including Fredericton and other communities, people have understandably questioned whether solar power is a good choice. Adding storage capacity to solar power systems makes a big difference. The technology can allow homes and businesses to get the greatest benefit from clean solar energy, using the power at night or on a cloudy day. Consider investing locally in New Brunswick's clean energy future.


solar panel cartoon

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About the Author

Oriana Cordido has a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in International Relations and Economics. She is currently responsible for providing knowledge and awareness about solar energy, and creating solar proposals for customers wanting to reduce their energy bills. You might be reading this blog if you're curious about how your business can save money. If this is something you've ever thought about, she's your go-to girl!

She has considerable experience in the field of social entrepreneurship as she was the Team President and Co-Founder of Enactus UNB which is an international non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. ​ ​

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