What is a hybrid solar system?
There are a few different types of solar panel systems such as grid-tied, off-grid, and hybrid. Basically, the difference between them is the amount of reliance on the grid as a backup source of power.
A hybrid solar system combines the best features of grid-tied and off-grid systems. They integrate a solar battery for storage for use when the sun goes down. This makes a hybrid solar system more advantageous than a grid-tied system that has no backup power integrated.
In this article, you will learn about the three different solar power systems (grid-tied, off-grid, and hybrid) as well as the different options available for a hybrid solar system.
To understand what a hybrid solar system is, one must first understand its parent technologies.
Grid-tied Solar Systems
A solar power system is considered grid-tied when the power generated by the solar panels sends power to the grid when there is excess, or draws power from the grid when insufficient amounts are being generated by your PV solar system.
Grid-tied systems feed excess energy back into the grid for other people to use instead of storing it. This spins the meter backward. So this will be credited to your account and you can make money from your solar power system. Hybrid solar systems have this same benefit.
Off-grid Solar Systems
Off-grid solar systems are totally independent of the main power supply grid. These systems are bigger and need to not only power the site, but also store sufficient power onsite in batteries for use at night or during poor weather. This system is more expensive because they need large storage to cope with long periods of poor solar power production.
Off-grid solar is necessary when power from the mains is interrupted as in the case of blackouts. These systems are perfect for remote homes where there is no connection to the main power grid.
A Hybrid solar system is a combination of the two
A hybrid solar system uses both grid-tied and off-grid systems. So you have a battery for storing backup power for use at night and during poor weather, but you are also tied to the grid to feed any surplus energy generated back in and take advantage of the current generous feed-in tariffs paid by energy suppliers.
If you live in the city, having a small battery and still being connected to the grid is the ideal setup. Living in remote areas will lend themselves more to a full off-grid setup as grid connection is not always an option.
Advantages of the new hybrid inverters over the old inverters
The new hybrid inverters manage energy inputs as well as the charging of a battery and can accept energy from multiple sources.
These are the best for maximum cost savings and efficiency due to their programmable features and integrated components. For example, it can be programmed so that the battery can be charged via solar panels or the grid. Multiple power sources such as generators and wind turbines can also be added. It is easier and more cost-effective to go from grid-tie to hybrid if a hybrid inverter is used in the first place.
Advantages and disadvantages to hybrid solar systems
Below is a list of advantages and disadvantages of using a hybrid solar system and to help you decide whether this is the best option for you.
Allows the storage of power for use at night – Being able to store electricity produced through the day to use at night is a big bonus. As we use 70% of all our power at night this really is key to making the whole solar thing really work for you.
Further reduces your energy savings – As we use 70% of our power at night, it makes sense to be able to store it using a battery and use it later.
Better for the environment – As you are less reliant on dirty grid electricity, you are actually saving the environment by using a battery backup system.
More expensive – It is a lot more expensive than a grid-tied system but cheaper than an off-grid system. What makes it more expensive than a grid-tied system is because of its need for a battery. If you think of it, having a battery is very helpful especially whenever we need electricity at night and when the weather is not at its best. This makes it a really good investment.
Technology not there yet – Solar batteries are a new concept and the technology is lagging behind the panels. Solar panels have a warranty period of 25 years, where batteries only last for 10 years or 10,000 cycles.
Can I go hybrid later or do I need to decide now?
Solar systems are very modular and components can be upgraded and repaired with relative ease, however, good initial planning is useful because future upgrades will be more successful if there was forethought.
Opting for a hybrid solar system is a safe bet due to the relative plasticity of the design as well as the fact that there is a lot of investment into it. The solar power industry in general is relatively new, but it’s definitely here to stay.
You can go from an old grid-tie system initially and then upgrade to a new hybrid solar system by changing the inverter and adding a battery. Going about it this way is going to cost you more as inverters are not cheap, so it pays to know what you want right off the bat. It is also best to use GoSolarQuotes to get the best deals from local installers. Get started by filling in the above form and telling us a little more about your electricity needs.
What does a hybrid solar system cost?
It will depend on your energy needs and the size of your system, but if we take the average 5kW system which is one of the most popular sizes you can expect to pay around $10,000. The cost of the solar panels and inverter installed is about half that, with the rest being made up by the battery cost.
You can go cheaper if you opted for Lead-acid or saltwater batteries, but their longevity is questionable so I advise going with Lithium-ion batteries. They are more expensive, but they come with a 10-year life expectancy and should last longer if cared for properly.
Can I add batteries to my current system to make it hybrid?
If you have a regular grid-tied solar system, you can add a battery bank and make it hybrid. You will need to change your inverter so it can deal with charging/ discharging your battery, as well as feeding to the grid. Your current inverter will not be up to the task.
Difference between AC coupled and DC coupled?
AC and DC coupled is another word for AC/DC connected. Solar panels generate DC and batteries accept DC. Grids accept AC. The inverters change the currents so that they can be accepted and utilized by the different systems. But don’t worry too much about these technical terms as your solar power company will install all the necessary components. Just realize that the more components you add, the more expensive it is, at least for now until even further progress in the production process is made.
Author: Ben McInerney is a renewable energy enthusiast with the goal of helping more Australians understand solar systems to make the best choice before they purchase. Having an accredited solar installer in the family helps give Ben access to the correct information, which allows him to break it down and make it easily understandable to the average homeowner.