By Joshua Key
So, you want solar power for your home or business. You know you are tired of paying the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC). You know solar power is a well-tested, warrantied solution that more and more Bahamians are using. You know that you want to be the next to get it. Only one question remains: Do you get a system with batteries or without? How do you know whether a battery system or a grid-tied system is better for you? Or is there a third choice?
In my experience, when most people first think about going solar, they eye a battery system. Here’s how it works: The solar panels produce power all day, and the batteries collect it. At night (or when BEC goes out), the batteries can then run the home (or parts of the home). That’s a fair summary.
However, many people get a second kind of system – a grid-tied system with no batteries. The sole function of this system is to save you money. Here’s how it works.
The solar panels still produce power all day, and the power is immediately used in your home or business. This means you pull less from BEC and save money on your electricity bill. In fact, if your panels produce excess power, this gets sent out to the grid, and you get a credit for it (or will shortly).
How do the two systems compare? Batteries are the single most expensive component in the whole system and must be changed roughly every five years, so battery systems are more costly and more complex. Battery-less grid-tied systems require less maintenance and are less expensive, but they do not store power.
What if neither option really suits you? Is there a third option? Yes. Some people will marry the two systems and install a grid-tied system with batteries. We call this a bimodal hybrid system. This is the most complex and costly approach, and gives you the best of both worlds.
So, which system is best for you? In the end, it comes down to a matter of priorities. One priority is having power when BEC goes out.
The other is saving money on the electric bill. If you had to pick just one of these, which would you choose? Your answer will determine the solution that fits you best - a battery system for back-up power, or a grid-tied system to save money faster.
And, if you absolutely have to have both, and you do not mind putting out a little extra capital, you can get a bimodal hybrid system to save money and provide back-up. The choice is yours.
Whichever option you would like, be sure to consult with a professional who can properly assess your situation and design a system to meet your specific needs. That is the first step in turning your dream battery, grid-tied or hybrid system into reality.
NB: Joshua Key is general manager for SuperGreen Solutions Bahamas, located on Wulf Road next to FYP. SuperGreen Solutions is an advisor, supplier and installer of domestic and commercial energy efficient solutions.