Modern lithium ion batteries for solar with battery backup have been around for years now. The early adopter stage is ending, and 2024 is shaping up to be the year for battery backup in Southwest Florida. There are major developments in the industry, and now may be the time to buy solar with batteries or add batteries to your existing solar installation.
Our co-founder and licensed contractor, Jason Szumlanski, has often been asked over the years whether the time is right to install batteries. In the past few years, it started making more and more sense, but he was forced to answer the question like this: “Let’s put it this way – I don’t have batteries at my house to go with my solar panels. Why? Because something better is right around the corner.”
Obviously, that can always be said about technology. Let’s face it – nobody would have an iPhone if they were always waiting for next year’s model. But batteries were, and still are, a big investment, so the decision wasn’t as easy. What has changed?
In this video, Florida Solar Design Group Principal Solar Designer Jason Szumlanski discusses the reason that 2024 will be the year of the battery and why he has decided to install battery backup at his own house!
At one time, the Tesla Powerwall was the only game in town when it came to energy-dense modern lithium-based batteries. Today, we have tons of new options on the market, with familiar and upstart manufacturers making innovative and practical solutions.
Enphase is now offering it’s third generation battery system already. It works great as a cohesive single-source system for new solar installations, plus it plays perfectly with their millions of microinverters systems already installed today. A similar system architecture from Franklin Battery is making waves in the industry with high capacity and low cost, although not the same vertical integration that Enphase offers. And there are others with similar approaches.
Those mentioned above are actually Energy Storage Systems that output AC power with integrated inverters. But you also have basic lithium battery options on the market now that play nicely with a variety of traditional hybrid inverter manufacturers. One of our favorites is HomeGrid, which offers a stackable and easily expandable battery system that can be paired with many inverters. We like doing that with the new Sol-Ark 15k all-in-one inverter, which has fantastic features and power all in one box.
There have been a few bumps along the road, but for the most part, modern batteries are very reliable and can withstand rigorous usage. That has been proven already with Electric Vehicles, which present a particularly challenging environment in which batteries operate. As each new generation of home battery comes out, manufacturers are delivering simple and reliable products that solar dealers can confidently sell.
The Enphase batteries mentioned above are a clear example. The previous generation 10 and 10T batteries work well, but there were some issues with wireless communication and the “smart switch” required for grid-interactive systems. Enphase learned from this and shifted to a wired communication system for their new 5P battery and resolved the smart switch issues. They also recognized that they needed a higher ratio of power output to battery capacity, which they definitely delivered with a massive 100% increase in power rating.
Manufacturers are realizing they need strong integration with other components. The battery manufacturers are now working closely with inverter manufacturers to provide “closed loop” communication between the batteries and inverter. This allows more safe and efficient charging and accurate state of charge measurements that provide real-time data to consumers through monitoring apps.
These innovations have brought battery technology to a point where we can wholeheartedly endorse them now.
While technical innovations have led to better energy density and efficiency, the real cost improvements have come from economies of scale. The EV market is clearly driving battery development and manufacturing, and home batteries are riding on that industry’s coattails to an extent. But competition has also been a driver of cost decreases. It is the perfect storm that had led to more battery capacity for your money, despite the general inflation we have experienced recently.
Speaking of the perfect storm, demand has played a huge role in increasing volume and allowing for innovation, competition, and scale. Storms across the country have made people more interested in battery backup. Fires in California, snow storms in Texas, and hurricanes in Florida have been top headlines in the last couple of years.
We told you that we would let you know when Jason is ready for batteries at his own home. And that time is now. He is installing a battery backup system this year. As you might imagine, it will make a few people envious.
There is a confluence of reasons that now is the time.
- We don’t see batteries going down in price any time soon. While the batteries themselves may go down in price, everything else is going up. And there is a lot of “everything else” involved in a battery installation.
- The Enphase 5P Battery really changed the game. Since it is compatible with virtually all of our clients’ systems, and it has a hugely improved power output that is leading the industry in many ways, this technological improvement is big enough for us to declare batteries a great option.
- THE hurricane. Do we even need to say the name “Ian?” But it’s more than just the threat of storms. The evidence is now clear that battery backup is ready for prime time.