For many years, gasoline generators have been the primary option for consumers looking for a backup power source in case of an electric outage. A backup solution needs to have a consistent source of energy that can be dispatched at a moment’s notice. With the significant reduction in the cost of solar (a consistent source of energy) and batteries (storage, allowing the energy to be dispatched at a moment’s notice) over the past 10 years, has the time come for a combination of solar energy and battery storage to replace generators?
In this blog, we will take a look at the benefits and costs of both backup energy options.
The pros and cons of using a generator as a backup energy source
The primary benefit of using a generator over a solar with storage combination is the cost. There are many different models and brands for you to pick from. Unlike solar batteries, many of these generators can be purchased at your local hardware store.
Most generators can also be transported and used at your location of choice. This makes it easy to supply power wherever you need it. You're just limited to the amount of fuel you're able to store and transport.
One of the biggest downsides to using a generator is that you're dependent on outside fuel sources. These sources have the potential to run out of fuel during a natural disaster or they can become costly. Generators also create fumes that are not good to breathe. This means they need to be placed outside in a well-ventilated area, which could create challenges when weather conditions are poor.
The pros and cons of a solar system with battery storage
The main benefit of using a solar with batter combination is the fuel source is free. There is continued access to that fuel during a natural disaster, as long as the sun is shining and the system is not damaged. A solar with storage solution is also quiet and environmentally friendly, both benefits that a typical gasoline generator cannot claim.
The downside to a solar with storage combination is the cost. In most cases, a solar system can pay for itself in a relatively short period of time through the reduction of your electric bill and other financial incentives. However, a battery storage system can be expensive and the only payback is that it allows you to store energy for later use. You will likely not see a financial return from just the batteries.
The batteries also require space. This will vary based on the battery you use and the amount of energy storage you require. The good news is batteries continue to get smaller and more condensed as the technology advances.
The cost difference between a generator and solar with battery storage combination
Gasoline generators range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars depending on how much energy you need to produce - a few outlets vs. a full house backup. The cost for a battery system to be installed with a solar array can vary. The smallest battery currently offered by Paradise Energy Solutions is a 9.3 kWh battery. It can store enough power to run a 1,500-watt heater for over 6 hours. That battery cost about $15,000 with the installation. A battery system to backup your whole house could run in excess of $100,000 after the installation costs.
In most cases where the batteries will be charged from solar only, the 26% federal solar tax credit also applies to the battery system. Accelerated depreciation may also be available for commercial systems. Please note, we encourage you to contact your tax advisor to review your particular situation before purchasing a system.
Some states are also providing incentives for battery systems. Maryland currently has a state tax credit for 30% of the cost of a battery system, which goes up to $5,000 for homeowners and $75,000 for businesses. Other states such as New York and New Jersey are considering incentives and could soon follow in Maryland's footsteps.
In most cases, the decision for one backup energy source versus the other will come down to cost. Using a generator is currently the most cost-effective backup solution, and most times the easiest to implement. However, as the costs of solar panels and batteries continue to decrease, a solar with storage combination will make sense for more people.