How Often do Solar Batteries Need to be Checked and Maintained?
Different solar power storage batteries require different methods of maintenance. Lead-acid batteries may be durable and cheap, but they require constant hands-on maintenance. On the other hand, Lithium batteries require little maintenance. The choice of an energy storage system is usually influenced by the degree of battery maintenance. Here below we look at how different batteries for solar storage are maintained.
Lithium-ion Batteries: Lithium nickel Manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) and Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) are the most popular lithium-ion batteries. According to Brent Harris, the founder and CTO of Equana Technologies, Lithium batteries are increasingly becoming more popular for solar power storage because of their hands-off maintenance, high density, as well as low cost. However, these batteries are not the best choice for certain applications. They are not the best choice for environments with extreme temperatures. Neither are they fit for applications with long storage durations.
The only point of concern for lithium batteries is their rate of degradation, which must be planned for. Lithium batteries wear out after a given number of charges and discharges. All lithium-ion batteries come with a Battery Management System (BMS), which helps to maximize performance by automatically monitoring cell temperature, cycle life and state of charge. As long as they are placed in the right environment, there is very little maintenance required. LFP batteries can bear higher temperatures as compared to NMC batteries, which, because of cobalt, can only bear so much.
Flow Batteries, Specifically Zinc Bromide, ZNBR: Flow batteries have two chemical components which are dissolved in liquids separated by a membrane responsible for producing a charge. Like lithium-ion batteries, Zinc Bromide batteries require very little maintenance. They are not affected by environments with extreme temperatures. Unlike Lithium-ion batteries, they are fit for large scale storage, as well as for long duration storage. All these batteries require is an annual maintenance visit for inspection by a certified technician.
Lead Acid Batteries: Not only are lead acid batteries cheap, they are also very dependable. To achieve long life with these batteries, their acidic electrolyte has to be replenished. They are heavy, and require good ventilation for them to perform optimally. They require low temperatures and dry locations. For their maintenance, these batteries should be checked several times annually to ensure that their terminals are intact.
For flooded batteries, distilled water has to be added periodically to replenish their electrolytes. For AGM and gel lead acid batteries, no electrolyte replenishment is required as they are well sealed. For batteries which are not in use, especially during winter, should be fully charged, with their electrolytes replenished to the right levels. The battery discharge over time and have to be recharged, even when they are not in use. Their rate of self-discharge is dependent upon temperature.
Nickel-Cadimium (NiCd) Batteries: These batteries can be subjected to extreme temperatures, as well as in deep discharge circumstances. They are good for off-grid, remote installations, and are best for demanding back-up applications with minimum or no regular maintenance. For their maintenance, their electrolytes require regular inspection and replenishment. They can work in a wide range of temperatures, and therefore don’t need to be prepped up during winter. However, they should never be placed where temperatures can fall below -22F. As long as the temperatures are right and the environment is dry, they can be stored for up to 12 months.