Study: Battery storage far too costly for practical use with rooftop solar installations

By Jason Hopkins

Exorbitant battery storage costs prevent rooftop solar installations from paying for themselves in the long run, making home energy storage an impractical use for average consumers in the foreseeable future, a new study determined.

As the renewable energy industry continues to draw more interest from environmentally conscious consumers, battery storage technology is becoming more sought after as a means to harness energy for future consumption. For example, solar panel batteries can store excess energy captured during the daytime and use that energy to keep the lights on after the sun goes down. Consumers are encouraged to purchase solar panels with promises that, in the long run, they will save money on monthly electrical bills.

However, a study released Monday by the Global Warming Policy Foundation revealed that battery storage is simply too costly to provide long-term financial benefit.

“The price of batteries is relatively high, but the possible savings from adding them to a rooftop solar installation are quite limited, particularly as a fraction of the typical electricity bill. When you add up the costs and benefits, it is quite clear that they are a waste of money,” Capell Aris, a former reactor physics specialist and a fellow at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, wrote Monday.

The study Aris conducted took into consideration typical solar panel installations and basic electricity consumption over the course of one day and a year in the United Kingdom. The variables he considered were comprehensive, factoring in weather patterns and the degradation of solar panel efficiency over time. The factors were repeated to cover a 20-year period.

The results: Solar rooftop installations are a far cry away from keeping pace with household energy consumption in the U.K. Their use would result in long-term savings for users if costs were to drop dramatically, but that does not appear to be happening anytime soon.

“There is no doubt that battery prices are falling, but even if we make some fairly optimistic assumptions about performance, prices would have to fall by another 50 percent just to break even. They would need to come down even further than that to give a financial return,” Aris said. “It’s hard to see this happening any time soon. Battery storage for rooftop solar is simply not an economic prospect, and will likely remain that way.”

The study follows mounting questions about the true cost of solar panel installation in the United States. Widespread residential and commercial use of solar panel technology would not be feasible without a flood of subsidies from the government.

Upon a study of their net metering program, Montana revealed earlier this month that their largest utility company was over compensating net metering customers three times the market value for their energy. An investigative report Friday by America Rising Squared detailed the billions of dollars the federal government shelled out in 2016 alone to prop up otherwise unprofitable renewable energy programs.

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

9 thoughts on “Study: Battery storage far too costly for practical use with rooftop solar installations

  1. Actually, GMP has a Tesla battery option, not unlike the hot water heater you rent.The battery costs $1800 or $15/ month. They get to draw down on peak demand and own it so they will replace if defective just like the water heater. Normal Tesla Power wall would cost $7K installed. I still wish they would just up the $0.06 of power from Hydro Quebec and be done with all the BS subsidies.

  2. I don’t advocate solar power (@ $0.20/kwh+-), especially when compared to the cost of Hydro Quebec power (@ $0.05 – $0.06/kwh). But this report is misleading in that it ignores the one battery that does work well – namely the power grid. Running the electric meter backwards is ‘a battery’ too….and it’s safe.

    • Jay,
      The grid does not store any electricity.

      The traditional generators have to make adjustments in their outputs when variable solar electricity is fed into the grid;the more solar, the more the adjustments.

      At some point the adjustments become very large and the famous Duck curves are the result, as in Southern Germany and Southern California

      Then during late afternoon/early evening, the traditional shave to ramp up their outputs at high rates to meet peak demands; solar is absent.

      Those gymnastics come at a high price, which has resulted in California rates increasing at the much faster rate than US rates during the past 7 years.

      Any battery storage California does have is grossly insufficient, as the Duck curve is getting worse each year.

      The battery capacity to eliminate the Duck curve would need to be about 300 GWh, which at a cost of $400/kWh would be 300x1000000x400=$12 trillion.

      • Willem, you’re missing my point.

        No, the grid doesn’t ‘store’ electricity any more than a bank ‘stores’ cash. But when you put money in the bank, as with putting electricity in the grid, you receive a credit for the deposit. Both the cash equivalent and the electricity equivalent of the deposits are available to you…on demand.

        When you ‘store’ electricity in a battery, the net effect is the same. The battery holds the electricity in its vault for future use. But ‘the battery’ has limitations the grid doesn’t.

        The battery is personally expensive. The cost of the grid is shared by everyone.

        While grid storage has ‘conversion loss’ and ‘transmission loss’ that affects the credit available on your deposit, once you receive your credit, there is no additional loss. You have the same, if not greater, losses with a personal battery. And the grid isn’t restricted by the amount of energy one generates. A battery is restricted by its size, its age, its type and the cost one can afford.

        With the battery, too, you are solely responsible for its operation (and failure to operate). The grid, as with the bank and FDIC insurance, assumes that responsibility when it accepts your power,it shares maintenance expenses across the board and is obligated to provide a return.

        Furthermore, there ‘are’ ways for ‘the grid’ to ‘store’ electricity (i.e. energy). When VT Yankee generated excess power, it pumped water into a high mountain reservoir, turning the kinetic energy into potential energy…just like a battery of sorts. As inefficient as it may have been, it ran turbines when the water was released. Yes, so too can individuals do so. But the grid has economy of scale a single household doesn’t.

        The major problem with solar, especially in this neck of the woods, isn’t the difference between ‘the grid’ and a ‘battery’. Solar is an inefficient ‘bridge technology’ that’s not economically conducive to Vermont where we have only 60 sunny days and 100 partly sunny days year… not to mention Vermont’s average sun azimuth. Just compare Vermont and Arizona, for example.

        The point being, ‘the grid’ exists for anyone plugged into it and it is a de facto battery that is significantly more efficient than residential batteries. We need to be honest about that.

        Again, I’m not pro solar. What confounds me is that, if we put as much investment in ‘compact fusion’ technology as we do wind, solar, hydro, coal, gas and oil, we’d have the most efficient and abundant energy possible at very low cost. And when I hear that we can be self-sufficient with so-called ‘renewable energy’ in 50 years, I wonder why the deemphasis of ‘fusion’ technology.

        I suspect, as with any ‘disruptive technology’, viable ‘compact fusion’ will be disruptive beyond imagination to every other energy source and provider. So, until all the oil, gas and coal fields, the pipelines and super tankers, the gas stations, the dealers, the solar arrays and windmills and everyone associated with that kind of primitive power generation have fully depreciated their investment, we won’t see fusion. And that’s unfortunate…not only for consumers, but for the planet.

  3. Cost is only the tip of the iceberg. These storage facilities for residential solar are dangerous dangerous units. Just stop and think of all that stored up energy resting somewhere in your basement the possibilities for failure explosion and serious injury are astronomical.

    • I keep a can of gas in the garage for my lawnmower and chainsaw and 275 gallons of fuel oil in my basement.

  4. Based upon the current mind set in Montpelier the high cost of battery storage shouldn’t be s problem. Just tax the heck out of the folks who do not have the panels to pay for it. It’s not complicated.

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