Now, as the name suggests, Driven is a radio show and a website ( www.DrivenFM.com ) about cars and motoring - So you may initially be a little confused, or think I am, if I start talking about batteries. And not car batteries. Batteries for the home. But it is all relevant I promise. Stay with me.
Solar power has gone through a real baptism by fire over the past few years, particularly in the UK where the tariffs home owners are paid once for producing any electricity and again for any they export to the grid, have been cut and cut again and they’ll continue to be cut to just pennies next year and beyond.
Britains though should think themselves lucky to be getting anything at all - In Spain, not only were payments from the government stopped for any solar system installed after 2010, but following a long campaign, their government has only just repealed a tax they introduced penalising homeowners for generating or storing their own power.
With Rising electric bills and the cost of solar systems suitable for a family home dropping steadily to around £2,000 in the UK, more of us than ever before are thinking about solar - But if you’re not at home during the sunny hours to enjoy the energy your roof’s making, and the government self-generation tariffs are shrinking or don’t exist at all, for a lot of us, there’s not much point.....Or at least there hasn’t been until now.
Home batteries are thought to be the next big thing in technology - There’s at least one startup business a month at the moment announcing products they’re developing, but there are already a few on the market we can buy right now.
The advantages of the home battery are relatively simple to understand - When your solar panels, or even your windmill is generating electricity, the battery will store it for you to use whenever you like reducing the amount of power you take from the grid at expensive times of the day or evening.
When the battery’s full, it feeds the excess into the grid and if there is one where you are, you benefit from the export tariff. Of course, you also get the tariff for all the energy you’ve produced as well, even though you’ll probably use all or most of that electricity in your own home as you’ve gone to the trouble of storing it in your battery.
What's more, these batteries can also be setup to store electricity from the grid at cheap Economy7 rate times for use at peak times during the day and evening.
There are people who’ve been doing this for years now with all sorts of Heath Robinson type setups in garden sheds. But now it's all beginning to go corporate - In fact the brand everyone seems to be talking about at the moment has got the most serious of all about home batteries - That’s Tesla, the American Electric car maker who recently launched their PowerWall for home use in the UK and in Europe.
In the UK, the Powerwall costs around £4,500 including installation - There are a growing number of alternatives from competitors and more in the offing. Electric car makers like BMW and Nissan are following suit as they’ve realised when their cars’ batteries come to the end of their life expectancy, they still have more than enough storage capacity to be recycled into a home battery.
You see? I said at the beginning this'd end up being about cars.
Anyway, with government self-generation grants increasingly miserly, or even non-existent in countries such as Spain, most people who buy these home batteries are buying their first solar system at the same time. It definitely seems to be the way forward, and prices can only go one way