Renewable Energy: A Comprehensive Guide to Solar (Part 3)

This is the third part to the first post in our new Renewable Energy series, where we will give the ins and outs of renewable energy that is able to be used throughout residential and commercial spaces.

What is it?

There are three types of solar: PV, Thermal and Hybrid.

The PV stands for photovoltaics. These systems convert sunlight into electricity – that doesn’t mean that it needs to be a hot summers day, though, the photovoltaic cells can still generate electricity on your average British day.

Thermal does as the name states, it uses the sun’s energy to generate thermal energy, which can be used to heat water or other fluids, but can also be used to power solar cooling systems.

Hybrid is the newest of the three, which is a combination of the previous two. These systems bring together advantages of both PV and Thermal, boasting the convenience of a grid connected system, with the battery backup.

Part 3, will focus on Solar Hybrid.

How does it work?

Traditionally, the term hybrid referred to two generation sources such as wind and solar but more recently, the term hybrid solar refers to a combination of solar panels and battery storage which unlike off-grid systems, is connected to the electricity grid. Solar hybrid power systems combine solar power from a photovoltaic system with another power generating energy source. They generate power in the same way as a common grid-tie solar system but use specialised batteries to store energy for later use. This ability to store energy enables most hybrid systems to also operate as a backup power supply during a blackout.

There are two types of solar hybrid systems: all-in-one systems and grid interactive/off-grid systems. All-in-one systems are the most economical hybrid solar inverter – they contain a battery inverter and a solar inverter together which can be programmed to determine the most efficient use of your available energy. Grid interactive/off-grid systems; the interactive or multi-mode inverter acts as a battery inverter and complete energy management system to optimise energy. Interactive inverters supply power in the same way as an off-grid inverter but also control grid connection and can be set up to automatically start and run a back-up generator.

How is it beneficial?

Solar hybrid systems are able to store solar power – you can use solar energy during peak times; because the energy is able to be stored, power is available during blackout. If the power generated by a solar array is insufficient to supply daytime loads, as well as charge your batteries, the system can recharge your batteries from the grid when a lower off-peak electricity rate is available. Hybrid systems are around half the price of an off-grid system and don’t require diesel back up. They’re still more expensive than a purely on-grid system, but the benefits of those batteries are worth the premium.

How efficient is it?

In comparison to other types of solar energy, a properly designed hybrid solar system can safely disconnect your house from the grid in the event of a power outage, and turn your house into a little mini grid.

Although the cost of batteries means that hybrid solar is more expensive than grid-feed solar, it allows use of solar energy during peak times. Through the independence of your energy use, as a user, you are able to save money through using energy stored during peak times.

How much does it cost?

For a standard 3kWh system, you can expect to pay around £5,000 installed. If you want to add 4kWh of usage storage to this, expect to pay around £8,000 for the complete system. 4kWh of electricity storage will get an efficient house through the night.

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