The solar energy source of power had previously been converted and captured into usable energy through different methods; it became a viable source of power for devices over some time. And many available solar panels in the market today can convert 20 percent efficiency of sunlight to solar energy, and the number of efficiencies is constantly on the rise.
Although the adoption of solar energy was minimal at first, several federal incentives and state and policies contributed a lot to drive the cost of solar panels far enough to be more widely adopted. As of this point, the solar power industry accounts for enough capacity to power 11 million households across the country.
However, one of the challenges of solar energy is how to store more solar energy to produce more power from it. Let us look at how solar energy power works, its importance, benefits, and the power storage problems that solar energy technology is facing.
How Solar Energy Works
The solar panel is also known as a solar module; it consists of silicon cell layers, a glass casing unit, a metal frame, and wiring to transfer electric current from silicon. Silicon is non-metal with conductive properties that absorb and convert sunlight into usable electrical power. The sunlight causes the silicon cell electrons to set in motion and initiates electric current flow, called the photovoltaic effect that describes the general solar panel technology functionality.
The science of solar panels generating electricity, first discovered by Edmond Becquerel in 1839, boils down to this photovoltaic effect. And can be thought of as a property of semiconductors that create an electric current when exposed to sunlight.
The process of photovoltaic works through these broad steps:
● The photovoltaic solar cell absorbs solar radiation
● When the silicon interacts with the sun rays, the electrons will start to move and create a flow of DC electric current.
● The wires will feed this DC or Direct Current electricity to the solar inverter and convert it to Alternating Power or AC power.
How is Solar Energy Stored?
The most common type of storage in the grid is the pumped hydropower storage system. But storage technologies frequently coupled with solar power plants are thermal storage or fluids with CSP plants and electromechanical storage or batteries with PV plants. Other types of storage like flywheels and compressed air storage have different characteristics, like fast discharge, that makes them attractive to grip operators. Here a quick look at each.
● Battery Storage: We can store solar energy in electrochemical batteries. If the solar energy is fed into the storage battery, the chemical reaction on the battery components will keep the solar energy. And will have a reverse reaction during discharging the battery that allows the current to exit from the battery storage for consumption. Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in solar energy storage applications, while new technology batteries are rapidly expanding, yielding cheaper and more scalable storage solutions for solar energy storage.
● Thermal Storage: This type of energy storage uses different mediums, such as molten salt or water to retain and absorb the heat from the sun. Then these heated mediums are stored in an insulated tank until the stored energy needs for consumption; usually, to boil water to generate power.
● Mechanical Storage: Mechanical storage converts the surplus electric power to mechanical power, then converted back into electricity for later consumption. There are three primary types of mechanical energy storage systems.
● Flywheel: The procedure uses surplus electricity to spin the flywheel, generating electricity during the peak demand times.
● Pumped-Storage Hydropower: Water is pumped to the reservoir using the surplus energy from the solar panels and sent upstream of the turbine generators. Then it allows the water to flow through the turbines to generate electricity.
● Compressed Air: This energy storage system stores compressed air in large vessels like tanks or natural formations like caves; then releases the air to generate electricity during the high power demand.
The Finest Way to Store Solar Energy
There is no immediate solution for solar energy storage. It depends on your available resources and requirements. However, here are some of the choices for storing solar energy in residential and commercial applications.
● Solar Energy Storage for Commercial: Businesses and other companies generally have bigger allocated budgets than households, making thermal and mechanical storage viable for their option. Although the cost of these storage options is pretty high, it helps the utilities keep up during peak energy demand. In addition, having large walk-through access panels will help provide easy access during inspection and maintenance of your storage system.
● Grid Energy Storage Coupled with Next-Generation Batteries: this storage system offers a promising future into commercial solar energy storage.
● Compressed Air: is the most cost-effective option for mechanical storage for large-scale energy storage applications.
● Pumped Hydro: can produce a massive amount of potential energy; however, it involves high upfront investment costs and significant regulatory difficulty.
Residential Solar Energy Storage
Residential solar energy application has many benefits, including cost savings, decentralization of electrical production, and resiliency. But commercial energy storage is cost-prohibitive for the homeowners. Fortunately, solar energy storages available in the market today are efficient and cost-effective for residential use to store solar energy.
● Lithium-Ion Batteries – are ideal and most common for home solar energy storage, it is relatively affordable, low profile and suits home to usage. However, other storage batteries available for residential use are lead-acid batteries and saltwater batteries.
Solar energy became more popular and quickly replaced other energy sources as the price of solar panels in the market fell. But even though the biggest challenge of the renewable solar energy power system is how to store more solar energy power in the system.
Why Do We Need Solar Storage?
Unlike other sources of energy such as fossil fuels, solar production is less unpredictable. It usually will fluctuate seasonally, like during winter and even timely local weather changes. Because solar energy relies on sunlight, several hours within the day cannot produce power. Thus we have to put some device to the system to store energy that has been collected during the peak sunlight hours for us to use the system during night time. At face value, this concern does not seem like a huge problem, but it is.
Current Options for Solar Power Storage
In the short term concerns, one of the challenges of solar storage is simply the system’s batteries because it is pretty costly and extensive in size. The more power you need to store, the bigger the battery you need to have in the system. And the installation of these batteries requires the help of a licensed electrician to ensure its efficiency and that the power collected during the day will be stored and converted into alternating current to be ready for consumption.
Future Storage for Solar Energy
The other problem from the current solar storage solution is the limitations of certain battery types. With Tesla’s Power Wall and some other advanced storage options, huge lithium-ion batteries are taking the step in the right direction. These storage batteries are physically smaller, lightweight, have high efficiency in storing solar energy power, and are easier to produce. It also requires low maintenance and can withstand regular profound cycle changes without any harm for many years. Compared to older solar storage systems that rely on old battery technologies, that might not be as effective as the new battery storage system. For example, the old solar panel adapters were known to link lead-acid batteries to create their storage matrix. While this is effective in its time, it can also be risky. As some of those early systems fade out, supporters of the solar system switch to lithium-ion storage batteries because of their low maintenance and high efficiency.
Benefits of Storing Solar Energy
Storing this surplus energy is vital to get the most out of the solar panel system, which leads to more efficient grid energy, cost-saving, and minimizes fossil fuel emission and carbon footprint. Here are some advantages and benefits of storing solar energy.
● Balancing Electricity Loads – Without storage, simultaneously, you need to consume the electricity that the solar panel has generated. Energy storage will allow surplus power generation to be kept and reserved for peak use or provide power or lights even when the sun goes down. And during the daytime, it will charge again through the sunlight when the power generation is high, and the consumption is low and dispense again when the demand or load is high. You can always have a power that is ready to use anytime.
● Filling In The Gaps – Short-term energy storage ensures consistent energy flow during power generation brief disruptions like routine maintenance.
● Energy Resilience – The energy grid is vulnerable to outages and disruptions sometimes because of severe weather conditions. Solar energy storage will serve as your backup power during any unpredictable power disruptions. They can keep critical facilities operating and ensure essential services like communication.
While every battery needs to meet specific safety requirements and reliability to use in a particular region or state, it can be challenging to determine which technical specification and characteristics matter most in choosing the best storage system. Here are some of the guides that you need to look at when comparing different battery specifications.
What To Look For in a Battery Storage System
Every energy storage system provides many benefits, from emergency power backup up to financial savings. However, it also has further technical complexity and a new set of unfamiliar terminology.
● If you want to store more power for your home at once, choose a high-power-rating type of battery.
● If you’re going to provide electricity to your home with your battery for a more extended amount of time, look for a higher usable battery capacity.
● If you want power appliances more energy-extensive, like a pump, water heater, look for a high instantaneous power rating battery.
● If you are space-constrained and want to get the most energy stored out of the space least amount, choose or look for lithium-ion, nickel, manganese, or cobalt storage batteries.
● If you want to get more kilowatt-hour of electricity from your storage battery, choose a battery that has a higher round trip efficiency.
● If you want to have a storage battery with the most extended lifetime rating, you can cycle several times. Choose a lithium-ion iron phosphate type of battery.
And all of the solar battery storage has a high safety standard rating.
The Benefits of Having A Solar Energy Storage
Financial Benefits: Although the primary reason to install solar energy storage is for backup power, it can also give economic benefits in some scenarios. There are two ways that power storage can be financially beneficial, such as during the high demand charges and during the time of use rate. You can pull up power from your battery in either of those two instances instead of getting power from the grid, especially when you have a higher demand rate. In addition, energy storage can help maximize the financial savings you get from solar power if you do not have access to one-to-one net metering by consuming more of the produced solar power.
Grid Benefits: For the grid, solar energy storage does more than allow for additional renewable energy; various services are essential to keep our electrical power system up and running, and solar energy storage provides not all but most of those services.
For example, in the United States, the electrical power grid operates at a frequency of 60 hertz. A deviation frequency of approximately more than a couple of tenths of a point of 0.5hertz can cause unwanted cascading blackouts. Several different types of energy resources provide support and frequency regulation. An energy storage system is another technology that provides frequency support, minimizing the need for fossil fuel energy sources on the grid.
Helps Integrate Renewables
One of the significant benefits of solar energy storage is that it helps the grid better integrate renewable energy. In that way, it will enable other clean sources of energy technologies.
The main counterpoint against renewable energy is the variability of their power production. While the purpose of the electric grid is to accommodate fossil fuel energy plants that can turn on to meet the high demand, renewable energy resources generate when the sun is shining. Therefore, as more renewable clean energy power facilities are rising, they need to align their output with the electricity demand.
Energy storage systems can play a significant role even with that; they can even provide fast or quick injection energy response on the grid as a contingency. Can provide black start capability and provide a reserve energy power source that is a beneficial and flexible resource and provides loads of benefits to the grid.