Understanding Peak Shaving and Battery Storage
Have you ever taken a close look at your energy bill? If you have, you’ve probably noticed that there are charges for “peak” electricity usage. Despite the fact that the electricity you use doesn’t really change throughout the day, you’re charged a different rate for your power depending on the time of day that you’re using it. During times when electricity is in high demand, utility companies charge a “peak” rate; at times when demand is lower, you’re charged a lower rate. If you think this sounds absurd—you’re absolutely right. Luckily, if you have a solar-powered system with solar power battery storage, you can actually use the stored energy in your battery to avoid those peak charges. This is called “peak shaving.” Keep reading to learn more about it and how it can save you money.
What Are Peak Hours?
As already mentioned, peak hours are the times of day when energy is in the greatest demand. However, pinning down the specific hours is a bit difficult, as they can vary by region and may even change with the seasons. Generally speaking, peak hours are between 10:00 am and 8:00 pm on weekdays during the summer. In winter, peak hours are usually 7:00 am to 11:00 am, and 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
Some utility companies provide a much more complicated billing structure, which include off-peak, mid-peak, peak, and critical peak rates. Obviously, paying 4 different prices for the same electrons can become quite confusing.
In fact, solar power has impacted these peak hours to an extent. Previously, the most expensive electricity prices were in the middle of the day, and off-peak rates would kick in during the early evening hours. Now, however, peak hours have been pushed back into the evening, past 5:00 pm, when solar panels are beginning to power down with the setting sun.
If you want to avoid peak hours altogether, you have 2 options: Eliminate your energy usage during peak times, or figure out how to use peak shaving effectively.
Avoiding Peak Hours with Solar
Obviously, a solar-powered system will help you avoid the vast majority of these peak hours, as they’re during the day when the sun is usually shining and providing your solar panels with ample energy to power your home. But what about those peak hours before the sun fully rises and after the sun has set? That’s where your battery comes in.
If you have a battery (sometimes called a solar storage bank), you can charge it with excess solar power during the day. Then, when the sun goes down, you can continue using your free solar power during those peak hours to avoid peak rates from the power grid. Your system can even be programmed to switch over to the grid after peak hours, conserving your battery’s power only for those peak times when you would be charged more for energy from the city’s grid.
Charging a Battery without Solar
Solar power isn’t the only way to charge a battery either. Let’s say, as an example, that your area has a stretch of cloudy weather, and your solar panels aren’t generating much energy for over a week. This would make it difficult for you to charge a battery for use during remaining peak hours after the sun has gone down.
However, if you have solar storage systems built into your power system, you can actually charge your battery with energy from the power grid. How does this benefit you? You can fill that battery with energy during off-peak hours, paying a lower rate for every kW; then, you use the energy stored in the battery during peak hours to avoid the extra fees at these times.
Using Peak Shaving Effectively
In essence, peak shaving ensures that you only ever pay the lowest possible rate for the energy that you’re pulling from the grid. While this can be done without even using solar power, a high-quality photovoltaic system along with solar panel battery storage is going to provide you with the best, most effective means avoiding those peak charges. Depending on the size of your system, capacity of your battery, and your energy usage, you may even be able to avoid paying for electricity altogether, since you would only be pulling from the grid when your solar panels aren’t generating power and your stored energy has been depleted.
The great thing about peak shaving is that it’s not something you have to actively manage yourself; today’s power systems can be designed to handle all of this instantaneously. You don’t have to worry about flicking a switch at the right time to switch over to your battery or your solar-powered system during peak hours. Your system can intelligently alternate between your solar power, your battery, and the city power grid throughout the day and night in order to save you the most money possible.
Peak Shaving with Net Metering
In some states, you can actually send excess energy back into the grid in exchange for a “credit” on your energy consumption. Essentially, you’re storing your energy in the grid for later use. However, those peak charges are still going to apply to you, regardless of how much energy you’re sending back into the grid. This means that it’s still important to shave those peaks whenever you can to save those credits and reduce your energy bill as much as possible.
This is one reason why many people still opt to have a solar battery, even if their area offers net metering for their solar power. That way, they can continue to charge their battery during off-peak hours to ensure they’re not using up those energy credits during peak energy consumption.
If you’re looking to save the most money possible on your energy bill, there are 2 things you need: a solar-powered system and solar energy storage. With these 2 systems in place, you’ll only use energy from the grid when it’s at the lowest rate possible—if you ever need to use it at all!