Batteries included: the future of clean energy?

May 16, 2023

Image credit: Osborne Energy

The world at the moment is an uncertain and fast moving, ever changing beast. The world of clean-tech, and in particular battery storage, is no exception. It seems like each month, each week even, there is a new product, a new supplier or a new project being written about on ‘the wires,’ and it’s sometimes a struggle to keep up, especially if you are not 100% immersed in battery technology - which probably means most of us.

At Osborne Energy we offer a range of services from finance and funding and project management to insulation, heating, solar and now battery storage. We’ve approached our move in to this new market with a sensible level of caution as any good business should, while still being excited about the huge possibilities battery storage presents, not just from a combination with solar PV but also the nascent area of ‘time of use’ tariffs which means solar PV does not necessarily have to be present and so opens up so many more opportunities.

Here’s three things that I have learnt from our research and development conducted in the past 6 months as we examined the wealth of opportunities ahead of us:

1. Battery storage is not (yet) for everyone

There are probably lot of companies out there shouting from the roof tops that battery storage is the silver bullet that will solve the intermittency problem renewable energy has. Conceptually it might well do, after all the critics always ask “what happens when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow?” so surely being able to store electricity when it does, overcomes those criticisms. I will leave the talk about grid scale storage to other more learned brains, but on the domestic level, not everyone would benefit from sticking a battery storage unit in with their solar panels – if you’re at home during the day, then you’d use up the electricity generated at peak hours anyway, so buying a battery with which to store it would be a false economy - you’d not be storing much, if any for later. If you’re working 9-5 in an office with PV, then again, your electricity demand during the day would likely use up whatever is produced by your panels.

Where batteries might help, however, is where a family is out during the day and has higher demand in the morning and evening, or  an office that has no occupancy at the weekend but high usage when it is open during the week. In this latter case, careful modelling would be needed and even then the business case may still not stack up.

2. The possibilities for integrating batteries with technologies other than solar PV are (almost) as exciting

At least to a non-technical clean-tech nerd like me they are! The best approach to any retrofit project is to look at the whole house. Or at least try not to do single measures if budgets allow and see what can be improved at the same time as your main measures. For example, always look at insulation when upgrading the heating as demand will be reduced, therefore boiler costs (capex and opex) may be less. If you’re looking at solar PV, see what electricity reduction you can also do such as fitting LED lighting. This lowers the electricity demand from lighting meaning the solar PV will cover more of the demand that is more difficult to reduce. If the usage patterns allow, and battery storage is viable then solar and LED could work well with it as a package to both reduce and produce electricity requirements.

3. We are (all) still at the learning stage

There are a few pathfinder projects out there that are looking at how batteries can help with grid services, some soon looking at second life of batteries and others, like ours, looking at fuel poverty. We are hoping to get some real life data from battery plus PV in social housing properties with our pilot project to see if they really can be used as a tool to fight fuel poverty, with the implication that if it does, we can also boost health outcomes for tenants, which can surely only be a good thing. We may do so, we may not, but we want to see what can be done, what needs to be improved in the technical set up, the business case and user experience and if this fast growing technology can be more than a shiny new toy to fix to your panels and a real tool to improve the lives of everyone. We will report back in future blogs.

Osborne Energy have teamed up with Baker Homes and Powervault to offer social housing customers the opportunity to run a pilot scheme looking at the effectiveness of solar PV and battery storage in terms of fuel poverty. The project can be tailored to suit your needs, budgets or social objectives – if you are interested we can come and meet you and discuss your priorities before we finalise the methodology across the project.

For more information and a full proposal of the project please contact Simon Evans, Director of Energy Services at Osborne Energy: 07545 707809 or simon@osborneenergy.co.uk

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