Batteries and the Future Of Residential Solar Power
6 September 2016

Is it worth investing in solar power now!

should I wait for the technology to get better and batteries to get cheaper?

PowerSmart was founded in 2007 and as a company has seen many changes take place in the solar power industry. We have watched payback rates drop to current levels of 0.08c/kW and electricity retailers like Unison set up pricing structures that punish people with solar power installed on their house. 

Despite all of this we have seen many of our clients save significant amounts on their power bill through installing solar panels. An example for us is Bill and Josee in central Otago who dramatically reduced their powerbill through a combination of modifying how they lived and having a well designed and correctly sized solar system. More recently in the NZ Herald there was another example of a Hawkes Bay couple Jenny and Philip who have dropped their bill from about $250 to only $90 a month ($60 in summer). 

So why are batteries so important for solar?

The sun shines during the day meaning solar PV panels produce electricity during the day, yet most families in a residential situation use their power in the evenings and mornings. With batteries, electricity produced during the day can be stored to be used when it is needed, which can minimise or even eliminate the need to connect to the national gird. 

So where to for the future of solar power and what effect will batteries have on the electricity industry? 

Our off grid clients are good examples of what will happen in the future. Take Matthew Hardy of Tauranga as an example, he was building a new house in the country and the cost to connect to the electricity grid was more than we could build him a complete off grid solar power system. So Matthew now generates all his own power and has no power bill at all. His house is completely independent of the national grid. 

What we have seen at PowerSmart is a massive improvement in battery technology coupled with a decrease in cost. Although batteries are still very expensive their price is decreasing all the time. If we look back to when PowerSmart started the cost of solar PV panels was astronomical compared to what they are now. 

So looking to the future, battery technology is only going to get better and cheaper. The integration of battery technology with solar PV technology has already improved dramatically over the last 12 months, with the introduction of products like Solar X inverters which combine a solar inverter and a battery inverter into one unit for the price of a solar inverter. This is just the start of a new wave or solar innovation which we believe will bring battery storage to the mainstream within 3-5 years.

This puts the whole electricity industry into an interesting position where people will have options when it comes to their power needs. In the past we had one choice for phone - Telecom. This is no longer the case with multiple options from traditional landlines, mobile solution and VoIP options. In the future our choices for how we power our houses will be just as diverse as we have in the communications industry. There will be houses connected to the grid, hybrid houses- who have a combination of batteries and gird power and off grid houses who are completely autonomous. 

So should i install solar pv in 2016?

Our answer to that is ..... YES.

However you need to make sure of two things:

  1. It is sized correctly, so you minimise what you export
  2. It is battery ready for when the price of batteries drops. 

Remember as long as their are people like Eion Musk wanting to disrupt the world of the power companies - change will happen.

It is a matter of when not if!


"We have never had a project go so smoothly, they finished two weeks ahead of schedule."

Dan Udy - Director: Udy Group