Photovoltaics Battery Storage

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For off-grid or stand-alone solar systems, a battery bank is used to provide energy storage.

Batteries are rated in terms of their voltage and Amp-hours (Ah). Taken together, these give an indication of how much energy a battery can store.

The most common type of battery is the lead-acid battery (with a small quantity of antimony to reduce self-discharge). Nickel-cadmium batteries are also suitable and have the advantage that they cannot be overcharged or discharged, but they are considerably more expensive.

Batteries for solar applications are often called deep cycle batteries, meaning they are designed to be discharged down to 50% or more without damage. This is so that they can supply power over a long period of time–in contrast to a car battery, for example, which is usually only discharged down 3% to 5 %.

Using car or truck batteries for a solar application will work, but the car batteries will probably not last as long and the system performance will be compromised.

In general, batteries may either be flooded or sealed. Flooded batteries have to be filled initially with electrolyte. The acid level also has to be regularly checked and topped up with distilled water whenever necessary.

Batteries last longer if the voltage is routinely maintained near the upper end of the range. Many systems also include a generator for backup power, to keep batteries highly charged, and battery maintenance. It is to your financial advantage to find ways to keep batteries charged in order to extend the useful life of your batteries–even if you fire up the generator occasionally (during a long period of bad weather, for example) to charge them.

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