For any off grid renewable energy system the battery bank is probably the most important component. It doesn’t matter how much power you generate – if it is not stored safely and efficiently then you will have no electricity when you need it. Batteries are also one of the most expensive parts of wind, solar, and hydro power generation systems so they need to be well cared for.
Unless you have a very small system you will need more than one battery – therefore you will need to connect the batteries to one another to form a battery bank. Below is an illustration from SmartGuage Electronics showing how this is commonly done:
Because of the small amount of resistance in the cable used to interconnect the batteries and from the connection between the cable and the battery posts, the battery closest to the installation is charged the most, discharged the most, and worked hardest, whereas the battery furthest from the installation is charged the least, discharged the least, and worked the least.
The power from the bottom battery has to pass through the main connection leads whereas the power from the top battery has to pass through the main connection leads and another four sets of interconnecting leads. Although the resistances are tiny – it is the fact that they are so small that makes them have such a big effect on the current flowing to each battery.
SmartGauge Electronics used a computer simulation in 1990 to calculate the following assuming a battery internal resistance of 0.02 Ohms, interconnecting lead resistance of 0.0015 Ohms per link, and a total load on the batteries of 100 amps:
|The bottom battery provides 35.9 amps.
The next battery up provides 26.2 amps.
The next battery up provides 20.4 amps.
The top battery provides 17.8 amps.
…which means the battery closest to the installation is worked twice as hard as the battery at the top of the battery bank! These surprising findings have since been reproduced in real world situations.
Connecting Batteries in a Battery Bank
So it the example given above shows you how NOT to connect batteries to make a battery bank, how should you do it? It is actually very simple – instead of taking the negative AND positive feeds from the same battery (in the example above it was from the bottom battery) , you should take one feed from each end of the interconnected battery bank – e.g. +ve from the top battery and -ve from the bottom battery. See the image below from SmartGauge Electronics:
With the same example load of 100 amps presented above the new loads on each battery are as follows:
|The bottom battery provides 26.7 amps.
The next battery up provides 23.2 amps.
The next battery up provides 23.2 amps.
The top battery provides 26.7 amps.
To get the batteries perfectly balanced requires a different scheme involving a little more work and expense (more cables and connections required), but is only really necessary if you have very expensive batteries or a more than 6 or so batteries in your bank.
Click here to find out how to Make a Simple Battery Bank Status Monitor with our guide.
Find out More about Connecting Batteries into Banks
To find out more about interconnecting batteries the right way in your particular case take the time to read the SmartGauge Electronics article Interconnecting Multiple Batteries to Form One Bank. It’s well worth a read if you are about to make a battery bank. It also details another couple of ways to wire up a battery bank to get an even better battery balance that the method explained earlier.
Warning: Be Safe When Handling Lead Acid Batteries
When handling lead acid batteries, great care must be taken. You should always wear gloves and safety goggles because if acid sprays or spills from a battery onto your skin or eyes you could sustain a serious and permanent injury. Invest in a bottle of surgical eye wash and leave it next to your battery bank at all times so you can flush your eyes immediately if you get acid in your eye.