Mother's Guide to Storage Batteries

A good food storage system can be a vital link between you and your alternative energy setup, including construction, lead-acid batter operation diagrams, charts and graphs, checklist.

| March/April 1982

A good storage system can be a vital link between you and your alternative energy setup.

Making the switch to a renewable source of energy is, undoubtedly, the goal of many MOTHER-readers. However, it's important for anyone who's considering building a home-scale electrical generation system to understand that choosing the power source—whether it be solar, wind, hydro, or whatever—is likely to be only half the job.

Because of the limited (or intermittent) output of most alternative energy systems, some method of storing power is usually required. Most often, storage setups consist of batteries, and their proper selection and sizing can play a decisive role in the success or failure of a renewable energy system.

Now there's a wide variety of batteries available, and they're not all alike. Naturally, some are better suited to certain applications than are others, so let's look into the offerings, and examine the capabilities of the different types.

Broadly speaking, there are two categories of batteries: primary cells and secondary cells (the latter are more properly called storage batteries). The familiar flashlight battery is an example of a primary cell. It's composed of chemicals with different properties, which react and—in the course of doing so—generate electricity. Once the chemicals are exhausted, the cell must be thrown away. (Despite what you may have heard, a primary cell can't be recharged.) Illustration by the Author

A secondary cell, on the other hand, is rechargeable. Like the primary cell, it derives its electricity from a chemical reaction, but the juice taken from the battery may be replaced by charging the cells from an external power source. Obviously, then, an alternative energy system will employ secondary cells.

Of course, even within that narrowed grouping, there's still quite an assortment of offerings. But, despite recent encouraging developments in battery technology, only lead-acid cells can boast proven costeffective performance.

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