Renewable energy strategies continue to make strides around the globe, helping to diversify
economies, boost existing power grid systems, and create new power grids in remote
In the past decade, one of the biggest barriers to accessing solar panel systems was the
cost, which was mainly associated with the batteries required for the systems. But
according to Natural Resources Canada, “Solar photovoltaics (PV) are rapidly becoming an
economical, renewable technology to harness renewable energy from the sun.” More
innovative solar battery storage systems are also helping to make solar energy systems
more affordable and attractive for businesses, homeowners, communities, and investors
How Do Solar Energy Systems Work?
Solar panels use photovoltaic (PV) technology to absorb heat energy from the sun and
convert that heat into electricity. That electricity can then be used or goes unused. Unused
energy can go to two places: First, it can go back to the power grid (if the system is
connected to a power grid). Or it can go into a battery storage system.
When you install a solar battery storage system, the excess electricity generated by your
panels charges the battery/. If you’re living completely off the grid or have solar panels on a
remote building, stored electricity can help you stay powered up at night, through densely
cloudy periods, and through power outages elsewhere.
Solar Battery Storage Systems
The Lifespan of Batteries
A typical battery in a solar energy system will usually last between 5 and 15 years,
depending on how you care for it and what elements the system is exposed to. If you install
the system today, you will likely need to replace the battery at least once to match the 25-
30-year lifespan of your PV system, no matter which battery you choose. Instead, your
choice in battery will impact how much maintenance you’ll perform over the years and how
resilient your system will be to the elements, depending on where you install it.
Choosing the Right Battery: Lithium-Ion vs. Lead-Acid
There are two main options when it comes to solar system batteries: Lead-acid batteries or
lithium-ion batteries. The decision about which to use depends on where and how you need
to use the batteries, along with a few other key factors.
Lithium-ion batteries were introduced in the 1990s and have slowly replaced other battery
types in high-tech devices. While lithium-ion batteries are more expensive to purchase, their
overall cost to maintain during their lifespan is much lower than other batteries, including
lead-acid batteries. The appeal of lithium-ion is that these batteries are highly efficient, can
be rapidly charged, and can hold a partial charge without harming the battery’s capacity.
One downside of lithium-ion batteries is that they don’t hold a charge or recharge at
temperatures below 0C. This can prove a challenge for outdoor usage in Canada, as most
regions have several months of the year with temperatures well below 0C. Lithium-ion
batteries also require safety systems to protect their circuits, while other, more durable
batteries do not.
Purchase Cost: High
Charge time: 1-4 hours
Coulombic efficiency: 99%
Temperature Range: -0C to 45C
Lead-acid batteries have been in use since the late 1800s, making them the oldest
rechargeable battery system that we have. Lead-acid batteries are durable and cheap to
purchase. They also work well at a range of cold and hot temperatures, which makes them
ideal for a range of conditions and devices.
The downside of lead-acid batteries is the maintenance required to keep them running.
Lead-acid batteries need to be topped up with water to ensure the battery fully charges and
to prevent sulfation on the terminals. This maintenance needs to occur every three to six
months to maintain the full lifespan of the battery. Lead-acid batteries are also considered
hazardous waste and cannot be placed in the garbage. They must be disposed of at
specially designated waste sites. Lead-acid batteries can also let off gases in warm
temperatures and must be stored in a suitable space.
Purchase Cost: Low
Charge time: 8-16 hours
Coulombic efficiency: aprox. 90%
Maintenance: 3-6 months
Temperature Range: -20C to 50C
Which Battery Is Best?
While the upfront affordability of lead-acid batteries is appealing, lithium-ion batteries
outperform lead-acid ones in terms of maintenance costs and performance. Each type of
battery has its advantages and disadvantages, and the costs and benefits need to be
weighed in terms of maintenance costs, climate, efficiency, and environmental friendliness.
However, the field of battery technology and innovation is continuously improving. In a few
years’ time, it is probable that a new battery will be introduced that outperforms both
batteries in all categories.
For all solar panel and renewable energy system projects, it’s always a good idea to consult
with a professional engineer. If you are investing in renewable energy, make sure to contact
the company you will be working with to learn more about the systems and how they are
designed. To learn more about renewable energy systems and their components, reach out
to one of the WATT Renewables team members today for a detailed presentation.
Renewable Energy Projects in Canada and Around the World
Want to learn more about renewable energy systems and solar power? WATT Renewables
designs, installs, and maintains clean energy projects around the globe, including Canada.
We are always looking for ways to improve the supply of energy around the globe and
connect projects with investors. Contact us and let us know how we are helping the world
move one step closer toward our renewable energy goals.