Is a Home storage battery our 'missing link' (and do specialist advisors exist for this stuff?)

  • 28 September 2021
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Hello
We’ve had a 3.7kw solar pv set up on our roof for 8 years, we’re in East Sussex. We were lucky enough to come in on the tail end of the feed-in tariff, so it has almost paid for itself. We don’t have a Smart Meter so our export is assumed to be 50% for the tariff, we know we don’t export that much as we also run our business from this building so we’re always here. We’ve had a 100% Electric car for 4 years (Leaf), and this summer we had a Heat Pump installed as part of the OVO trial. We don’t yet know how our bills will look this winter without gas, we have a multi fuel burner as back-up. We didn’t have a water tank with our gas boiler so didn’t have an iBoost-type gizmo fitted, which means our excess solar does not currently heat our water. 

So…  battery storage. Our mission for this house is to future proof it so far as possible, and get the running costs down as low as we can.  Our local installers have had issues trying to get Tesla batteries, there seems to be a waiting list. They’re currently testing other storage batteries. 

Meanwhile our Leaf is a Tekna and we bought it with Vehicle to Grid/Home in mind, sort of thinking ‘have this instead of a battery pack’. But the impression we have at the moment is that isn’t possible yet as trials are still ongoing (if anyone has another experience I’d be delighted to hear it!)

I have been reading these forums for the past week, trying to get my head around whether storage is the missing bit of the puzzle for us.  If I’m honest, my brain is melting a bit. If we go to an installer and they say ‘you need this’, we won’t ever know what other options we had or whether we’re doing the right thing.  Plus we have the dilemma of potentially switching energy suppliers, knowing that getting a Smart Meter would probably reduce our FIT payments, but then again… some companies offer attractive rates with a Smart Meter, so it might be a better option for us. Would it be worth it for us to pay someone independent to look at our entire set-up and advise? We’re wondering would that be money well spent v spending a load on (say) a battery only to realise that wasn’t the solution we needed. Do such advisors exist?

Thanks for reading, any suggestions would be much appreciated.


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Evening!

Trusted specialist advisors are somewhat difficult to find for this sort of thing - especially since it’s possible that some of them might be more interested in your wallet than the quality of their advice. Fortunately, you’re in the right place to get completely transparent advice free of charge. So transparent in fact, our specialist advisor is literally called @Transparent ! Because he’s completely invisible half the time (and he won’t make your bank account turn transparent either). XD

I’ll let him try to help out with most of the battery storage part of this thread, but I can advise on some of the other parts. Please could you post photos of your setup and fill out your profile for us if you haven’t yet? This will definitely prove useful because it’s very much case-by-case. Thanks!

Just a heads up, since you’re already claiming Feed-in Tariff payments, you’re not eligible for the Smart Export Guarantee because you can only get one or the other and it’s mainly based on when you made the claims. FiT did not require a Smart Meter, but SEG does. Even if you’ve found attractive export rates from other suppliers, it’s possible they’re referring to SEG and if they are, I’m afraid you’ll have to disregard them. Research these things carefully!

As for V2G/V2H, the vast majority of these are still in trial phases right now and aren’t yet available on the open market. I’d definitely recommend keeping an eye on things though because there’ll be developments over time.

It’s also worth noting that some suppliers only offer the special Smart Meter deals if you’re signing up as a new customer, do NOT yet have a Smart Meter and be willing to upgrade. To be completely honest though, I probably would advise caution in regards to switching suppliers right now - many of the smaller suppliers are currently in very risky positions so you may want to stay put for now and have OVO do the Smart Meter upgrade for you (plus, OVO uses Aclara and Flonidan smart meters which are more reliable than some of the other meter brands!).

With that being said though, you can definitely have a Smart Meter and have FiT at the same time. While FiT isn’t compatible with Smart Meters, having one won’t interfere with FiT (SEG however doesn’t pay as much as FiT on average) so you don’t need to worry about losing out if you upgrade. I suspect you’re getting FiT and SEG mixed up, but there’s literally no possible way for you to have claimed SEG back in 2013, so it’s only possible that FiT was what you went for. :wink:

I hope this helps with getting some of the puzzle solved. I’ll keep an eye on this thread in case I can help further.

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Thank you @Blastoise186 - I have learned a great deal from @Transparent already and he doesn’t even know that yet ! 🙂 So thank you both.

We receive a Feed In Tariff for Generation (large bit) and Export (considerably smaller bit) for our solar panels. I have to confess I needed to Google SEG when you mentioned it as I have no idea what that is… 

I do trust the advice of our installers despite a wobble with them over invoicing at one point. I’m just conscious that they will only advise about the bits of tech they know about (and fit), and won’t recommend something they know nothing about (and don’t fit) . A whole new world, and what a minefield it is.

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Yeah, it’s pretty complicated stuff and not the easiest to figure out.

My understanding is that FiT/SEG can sometimes be affected by the use of battery storage (especially for SEG) because the rules regarding the exports are a little funny about it - and usually only permits payments if the exported power is actually coming directly from the solar panels and not from other sources like a storage battery. I think you can sometimes have both anyway as long as the system is wired up so that the solar panels are exporting directly and that the storage battery is only used for your own energy supply (plus you’d need to prove that to OVO as well). But definitely worth double checking either way.

And yeah, if you’re getting a lot of cash out of FiT, then I’d definitely be suggesting to stay on that rather than migrating to SEG - because you’d have to otherwise opt-out of FiT to opt-into SEG and I don’t think you can switch back. If it’s not broken, don’t break it!

Transparent is well known for learning a lot about multiple technologies and he does a pretty good job about remaining neutral and unbiased. He tends to take Wednesdays off, but there might be a few other volunteers who spot this thread so you’ve got a pretty good chance.

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I have been reading these forums for the past week, trying to get my head around whether storage is the missing bit of the puzzle for us.  If I’m honest, my brain is melting a bit. 

 

I can totally relate to this feeling, @Bev! Got to be said these things can get very complicated and it’s often difficult to work out what might be the best option in terms of making your home the greenest, most energy-efficient it can be.

 

Luckily we do have a wealth of knowledge here amongst our community members who might be able to offer some advice in terms of lessons they’ve learnt/research they’ve also done in this area. @sylm_2000, @juliamc, @PeterR1947 and @Transparent, any ideas on where to start?

 

 

While FiT isn’t compatible with Smart Meters, having one won’t interfere with FiT 

 

Just wanted to clarify this point - getting a smart meter means your FiT export readings will monitored on your smart meter, rather than estimated at 50% of your generation reading, as they are currently. Obviously we’d still really recommend making the change to a smart meter as it would allow much closer monitoring of your energy usage and brings with it other great benefits for the future of the grid. 

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I have been reading these forums for the past week, trying to get my head around whether storage is the missing bit of the puzzle for us.  If I’m honest, my brain is melting a bit. 

 

 

 

While FiT isn’t compatible with Smart Meters, having one won’t interfere with FiT 

 

Just wanted to clarify this point - getting a smart meter means your FiT export readings will monitored on your smart meter, rather than estimated at 50% of your generation reading, as they are currently. Obviously we’d still really recommend making the change to a smart meter as it would allow much closer monitoring of your energy usage and brings with it other great benefits for the future of the grid. 

Morning @Blastoise186 absolutely. That’s completely our thinking, we’re working on the assumption that a Smart Meter is probably where we’re headed. We know we would lose some tariff because we know we are not exporting 50% a lot of the time. But this is only one reason not to do it, there are lots of other reasons not to. There is at least one tariff out there as we look at them today that would make up for the feed-in tariff but needs a Smart Meter. But switching again must also have an environmental cost - this Economy 7 meter is less than 3 years old. We paid for it to be changed as  charging our car at night at that stage made financial sense. And I suppose that’s my dilemma really. Keep fiddling, keep taking stuff out, keep putting new stuff in just for it all to change again.

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Don’t worry about having a Meter Exchange done to upgrade to a Smart Meter, even if the current one is fairly new. OVO will make sure the removed meter is disposed of safely and as much of it as possible will be recycled. It’s not usually possible to re-deploy a removed meter but a new use will be found for it somewhere and in one form or another.

Upgrading will also make it easier for you in general anyway - especially since Smart Meters like the Aclara SGM1412-B are capable of controlling storage heaters for example if needed, so that they only run during the cheaper hours. Plus, it’ll make it easier for you to get meter readings in on time so it’s one less job to remember each month! You won’t be charged to have OVO do this MEX and it will work with all other suppliers if you later switch, since SMETS2 meters are fully compatible with basically every supplier in the UK… Well, maybe not the ones that have gone bust recently, but you get the idea.

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Hello, me again. The one with many questions.

We contacted Indra about Vehicle to Grid/Home chargers and theirs are still in development. 

Qasar look like they’re installing, for businesses at least - VoltaEV website. Anyone had a Qasar Vehicle to Home/Grid charger installed for their EV?

Thank you

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It is possible to have a smart meter and keep your deemed export; I was with Octopus but kept SSE as my FIT provider and deemed export.  Unfortunately, with the V2G trial I’m on I was obliged to have metered export so I have lost the deemed for ever but currently get paid 5p or 10p for exported kWhs depending on time of day

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Don’t worry about having a Meter Exchange done to upgrade to a Smart Meter, even if the current one is fairly new. OVO will make sure the removed meter is disposed of safely and as much of it as possible will be recycled. It’s not usually possible to re-deploy a removed meter but a new use will be found for it somewhere and in one form or another.

Upgrading will also make it easier for you in general anyway - especially since Smart Meters like the Aclara SGM1412-B are capable of controlling storage heaters for example if needed, so that they only run during the cheaper hours. Plus, it’ll make it easier for you to get meter readings in on time so it’s one less job to remember each month! You won’t be charged to have OVO do this MEX and it will work with all other suppliers if you later switch, since SMETS2 meters are fully compatible with basically every supplier in the UK… Well, maybe not the ones that have gone bust recently, but you get the idea.

Thanks @Blastoise186. A friend of ours has had a Smart Meter for months and it isn’t working (no signal or something like that) so they’re still submitting readings and are spending an inordinate amount of time trying to get it sorted out. Which is another reason why we haven’t rushed to do it. Losing part of the tariff was our main reason though, until we have a compelling reason to change. That’s partly why I was asking for advice. The other side of the debate is I have been advised not to switch to a Smart Meter until we absolutely have to and I’m struggling to find people who advocate doing it (apart from the energy companies) until you have to. We don’t have storage heaters, we have Economy 7 because at that stage it was the cheapest option for charging the car at night - we’re on the Heat Pump trial. Thank you for the info, very much appreciated.

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It is possible to have a smart meter and keep your deemed export; I was with Octopus but kept SSE as my FIT provider and deemed export.  Unfortunately, with the V2G trial I’m on I was obliged to have metered export so I have lost the deemed for ever but currently get paid 5p or 10p for exported kWhs depending on time of day

Hi @PeterR1947, that’s interesting, thank you. I didn’t know that was possible. How are you getting on with the V2G trial (if there’s a thread where you’ve explained everything and would prefer not to again, feel free to send me there !). And which charger do you have?

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I’d like to hear from some members who already have storage batteries. They will be best placed to advise on the factors that determine the best return on investment, although with an ASHP, this might change the equation further. 

 

@Heatherd is probably the best placed member here to advise. According to my notes they have an air source heat pump, solar and storage. Share your insights for Bev and I’ll look for some way to return the favour @Heatherd!

 

I also know a certain @Transparent will be well placed to offer some advice on how to decide where to invest. As you say, the key is making choices you can be confident will remain optimal for several years...

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It’s difficult to summarise such a massive subject as ‘storage’ without getting too technical.

But at least I can start by saying “Hi @Bev:slight_smile:

Most of my storage and Solar Panel experience has come from off-grid installation. It’s only 9-months since I had a grid-connected Storage Battery and 5-months since a grid-connected PV Inverter was added.

Although I now understand the reason for most of the regulations concerning what may or may not be allowed with a grid-connection, I still favour off-grid as the better option. At some point I’ll find time to document here the number of home devices which can be effectively operated using DC from the battery without going through an inverter at all.

off-grid 24v lighting ring, 2m diameter

The key to having grid-connected storage with export capability is when it has a universal smart control system behind it such as Kaluza’s Flex Platform or Octopus’ Kraken-Flex. But there’s only room for one such system in the UK, and this has all the excitement of watching VHS dominate the Beta-Max alternative. The better technology did not win that battle.

In the meantime I think there’s an interim period when the most cost-effective solution is to build off-grid battery storage using off-the-shelf modules in much the same way as I’m currently putting together my Energy Monitor.

Having said that, I’m saddened that the current strategies for commercially-available storage systems (V2G and Storage Batteries) are mainly evaluated on cost (& ROI). They have so much potential for increasing the use of renewables and combating Climate Change. But those factors won’t become evident until we see Time Of Use tariffs.

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Hi @Bev , I’ll be following this topic with interest. There’s a lot to get my head around!

In a nutshell, I love my smart meter for import as it gives access to Time of Use tariffs. We have 2 EVs but only do short runs each day so we can fit our charging into cheap 4 hour slots overnight. I imagine the Eco7 rate may work out better if you need to charge for longer periods.

I’ve registered interest with Solar Together for their group buying scheme. Waiting to hear from the winning supplier as to what the price would be for solar and possibly battery.

Without battery I’d be looking to use any excess generation during the day to heat the water cylinder to make it less work for the heat pump. I quite like the look of the Tesla Powerwall batteries for their power cut protection but whether it’s worth the extra cost, I’m not sure. I’ve heard good things about GivEnergy batteries, though.

 

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I’ve been looking at previous forum threads to try and find other members calling out having energy storage batteries. I’ve found it a bit difficult, is this still in the early adopter phase mi thinks……?!

 

@Chisi1 reached out earlier this summer (topic here) to get advice on replacing their oil powered heating and combining the electric replacement with storage. Chisi, where did your research leave you on storage? And does @Transparent’s off grid vs on grid advice back this up? 

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Hi @Bev , I’ll be following this topic with interest. There’s a lot to get my head around!

 

Certainly is @nealmurphy ! Thanks for this, I’d forgotten about Solar Together, I’ll take a look at that too.

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It’s difficult to summarise such a massive subject as ‘storage’ without getting too technical.

But at least I can start by saying “Hi @Bev:slight_smile:

Most of my storage and Solar Panel experience has come from off-grid installation. It’s only 9-months since I had a grid-connected Storage Battery and 5-months since a grid-connected PV Inverter was added.

Although I now understand the reason for most of the regulations concerning what may or may not be allowed with a grid-connection, I still favour off-grid as the better option. At some point I’ll find time to document here the number of home devices which can be effectively operated using DC from the battery without going through an inverter at all.

off-grid 24v lighting ring, 2m diameter

The key to having grid-connected storage with export capability is when it has a universal smart control system behind it such as Kaluza’s Flex Platform or Octopus’ Kraken-Flex. But there’s only room for one such system in the UK, and this has all the excitement of watching VHS dominate the Beta-Max alternative. The better technology did not win that battle.

In the meantime I think there’s an interim period when the most cost-effective solution is to build off-grid battery storage using off-the-shelf modules in much the same way as I’m currently putting together my Energy Monitor.

Having said that, I’m saddened that the current strategies for commercially-available storage systems (V2G and Storage Batteries) are mainly evaluated on cost (& ROI). They have so much potential for increasing the use of renewables and combating Climate Change. But those factors won’t become evident until we see Time Of Use tariffs.

@Transparent thank you for this. That is one cooooool light :) I’ve seen you mentioning off-grid connections in other threads, that’s really interesting and not something that would have occurred to us - we just assumed it all had to go through the Grid (I have no idea why we assumed that !)

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@Bev slow progress with the V2G trial so far; the charger is a Quasar Wallbox and has recently had a firmware issue which has just been cured so CrowdCharge will be taking over the charge schedule automatically, all I do is set how many miles I need for the following day.

the V2G trial was ideal for me as I would never recover the cost of a storage battery due to my advancing years .

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@Bev   wrote:

That is one cooooool light :)

 

Well it can also be a warm light.  :wink:

The LED colour temperature can be swung all the way from 6000°K right down to 3000°K.

 

Human-centric lighting is one of those subjects I really need to start a topic about. It’s been tested in schools with some very interesting outcomes in educational attainment and behaviour.

And, no - it’s not expensive to implement.

… just realised I’ve gone way off topic!

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Human-centric lighting is one of those subjects I really need to start a topic about. It’s been tested in schools with some very interesting outcomes in educational attainment and behaviour.

And, no - it’s not expensive to implement.

… just realised I’ve gone way off topic!

 

Well a very interesting meander off-topic this one, @Transparent.

 

Have heard our response to light goes back to cave times, when the redness of firelight would signal our bodies to sleep (sure you’ve got the much more scientific explanation for this!)

 

Wonder if this lighting setup could be linked to a home automation system - @ArundaleP - I remember you mentioned having lighting controlled by a HA, does this work on similar principals?

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I’m intending to build my own control electronics to provide automation of colour-temperature for my home lights @Jess_OVO. These will be Arduino-based (cheap!).

The commercial ‘Smart Home’ systems are relatively expensive and don’t provide the extent of control I think is desirable, nor the ease of use.

Example:

An elderly person may wish to get out of bed at night, go to the bathroom and then return to the bedroom.

They should be able to use the normal (existing) bed-side light switch to turn on the light. The controller senses that it’s still night-time so it illuminates the room at one-third brightness and with no blue-wavelengths in the spectrum. Moreover the light fades up over a period of 2 seconds rather than an abrupt change.

As they enter the landing, they can reach for the switch at standard 1.3m above floor level. It might optionally also detect their hand movement by radio-wave, but the action still has the same effect as in the bedroom, fading up the light over 2 secs.

In the bathroom the standard pull-cord brings on the light, this time at 50% brightness.

The return trip to the bedroom reverses the switching. But even if they forget to turn off the bathroom and landing lights, a microwave detector should start to slowly dim those lights after 5-mins.

In the bedroom the bedside light switch also fades the light down, but with no delay… because we assume they’re back in bed when they use the switch!

 

To me, that’s human-centric lighting.

It’s not just that it has smart control, but that it does so without the user needing to know anything about how it works or use an iPad to set it up!

It can be readily installed as a retrofit into homes by individuals, community groups and Housing Associations.

It can be run from an off-grid battery and therefore continue to operate in a power-cut.

You shouldn’t need to evaluate whether to choose Alexa, Siri, Nest or Hive to achieve this basic level of intelligent light control. :scream:

And if @Jess_OVO can find me the additional time I need (preferably gift-wrapped), then this has the makings of a new topic :slight_smile:

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A great example of how human-centric lighting could work, @Transparent

 

We’d always appreciate one of your very well researched guides, would this help?:

 

:joy:

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Thanks @Jess_OVO  :kissing_heart:

And what if I told you that I can find a way to charge the battery for that ‘night-time smart lighting’ for free?

If Flex is up for the challenge, I can foresee a way to use the electricity which otherwise gets wasted at the substation due to phase-imbalance when you operate your Smart chargers overnight. :money_mouth:

And at this point I’m wondering if I should move further comment into the Tech Treehouse for discussion out of the public eye?

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We may be wandering a little far off-topic now, @Transparent, although by all means a topic about the possibilities of flex-powered lighting could be one for the Tech Treehouse.

 

It might be more helpful for this thread to hear how others with an Air-Source Heat Pump are making use of the storage possibilities currently available - @jenthomson I seem to remember you having a Tesla Powerwall alongside your ASHP, all powered by a TOU tariff - how are you finding this set-up is coping with the colder temperatures? :snowflake:

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Some interesting news to share here with regards to Kaluza, energy storage, and a decarbonised energy grid:

 

Kaluza announcement:

 

Today, we are delighted to announce our new balancing service for National Grid ESO with Flexitricity!

In a UK first, 
Kaluza and Flexitricity will provide a new combined flexibility service in the Balancing Mechanism, unlocking the potential of electric vehicles through smart chargers and V2Gs, as well as storage batteries, to provide a much-needed balancing resource for the grid and lower costs for customers. 

“Today, industrial batteries provide the majority of our system’s flexibility while the storage potential of millions of smart devices in homes goes untouched. This partnership is an important milestone for the industry in enabling end customers to play a role in a greener, cheaper and more resilient energy system, and be rewarded for it,” comments 
Marzia Zafar, Kaluza’s Director of Policy and Sustainability. 

 

Sounds exciting, Kaluza! What do we think forum members? 

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