Gaining independence from the grid: everything you need to know about energy storage

October 12, 2022

Modern off-grid living

Thanks to the current energy crisis, interest in harnessing renewable energy is unsurprisingly on the rise. Our co-founder and CTO explains how energy storage works to increase our access to renewable energy.

About Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS)

A BESS is basically a large energy bucket that can collect energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind, storing it to discharge and release on demand. It comes with a Battery Management System (BMS) which helps to optimise the use of the energy, as well as adding a layer of safety by utilising a variety of sensors to protect the batteries.

A typical BESS will consist of; battery modules, a battery management system (BMS), an inverter or a power conversion system (PCS) and an energy management system (EMS). The ideal BESS for someone looking to go off-grid will be a modular system which provides flexibility - should power demands increase, it is possible to simply add more batteries (up to 11.5kWh).

Energy storage is also a cleantech force ‘multiplier’; if there are other clean technologies installed, such as heat pumps, the renewable energy stored in the batteries can also be used to power the heat pump - or other energy-efficient products.

The off-grid community still needs modern life essentials

It is estimated by that around 150,000 people live off-grid in the UK, with more people showing interest in renewable energy sources and living off the grid than ever before.

The main driver for most, at the moment, is cutting the cost of utility bills, but for others, it’s an opportunity to be self-sufficient, reduce their carbon footprint and promote a greener lifestyle.

What we need to understand is exactly how this can be done without having to compromise on essentials such as internet connectivity and access to charging for electronic devices - as well as the basics of dependable heating and hot water.

What to consider when selecting a BESS for off-grid use

Researching what energy storage solutions are available and how they will best suit the installation setting is a logical first step and will ensure the installation will be as smooth and straightforward as possible.

Things to consider include:

  • Is the system modular? More energy storage capacity may be needed over time so it would be good to have the option of adding more batteries, rather than replacing the entire unit - or go to the expense of buying another full unit.
  • Could it be portable? This system will be a costly investment and, should the user move on, being able to take the system to the next site would be a significant plus point.
  • How easy will installation be? If the system is easy to move in parts, and can be assembled on-site, it will make installation more straightforward with less manpower needed and therefore make the installation more competitively priced - and quicker.
  • Can the system be serviced, repaired and upgraded? Off-grid customers, although no doubt driven by price, also tend to be motivated by concern for the environment. Finding a system that can be serviced, repaired and upgraded will ensure that the system has the longest possible lifespan, with less wastage and a longer-term return on the initial investment.

There are repairable, upgradeable products such as Aceleron’s Offgen which, with the proper care, updates and maintenance, can match the service life of solar PV.  Individual parts can be upgraded as technology advances and the components that need replacing over time can be easily recycled or repurposed.

Upkeep servicing, just like with existing boilers, will be necessary and involves preventative maintenance on power management components as well as updates to the management systems to course correct any performance trends.

The added consideration with this type of model, is that there will be repeat business opportunities for the installer.

Historically, off-grid living whilst continuing to engage with the modern world, would not have been easy. Combining BESS with renewable technology, particularly wind and solar, means that there should be no reason why someone with the budget and motivation cannot exist independently of the grid while still enjoying hot showers, TV streaming services and the use of modern appliances.