How to make domestic energy smart

Manufacturers are applying their experience gained developing electric cars to the home energy market

That electric vehicles are on our roads today stems directly from advances in battery technology. 

Batteries were heavy, bulky and didn’t really hold that much juice. For many years, automotive manufacturers and many others besides grappled with the challenge of producing low-cost, energy-dense and relatively light-weight batteries. 

Now manufacturers are applying their experience gained in developing electric vehicles to the home energy storage market. Elon Musk’s Tesla is launching its second-generation system here in February 2017, for instance. 

Storage allows householders with solar to keep energy produced during the day, when demand is low, for use later when needed and when costs are typically higher. It also offers a handy back-up if the grid supply fails. In addition, batteries can be charged from the grid when energy costs are low and the energy sold back to the grid when prices are high – a potential source of revenue even for those without renewables. 

Despite these advantages and the increasing penetration of renewables, storage uptake has so far been relatively slow, with cost perceived as a major barrier. Increasing competition is set to change that though. Nissan began taking pre-orders for its xStorage system in September in a bid to smash the perceived price threshold, with a basic unit costing around £3,000 installed. 

Nissan, together with power electronics firm Eaton, is reusing previously in-service battery modules from electric vehicles. Having reached the end of life for use in cars, the batteries have more than sufficient life to endure years of far less demanding domestic service, Nissan says. Recycling them for a new role saves a major part of the cost. 

Tesla, Nissan and automotive interests in general are not alone in the domestic energy storage arena. With the cost of household storage tumbling, a major piece of the clean energy puzzle is falling into place.