Solar energy is one of the most accessible and popular forms of green energy that people use. It is reliable and the barrier of entry is getting lower and lower with each passing year. As a result of more people embracing green energy, the interest in learning about it is skyrocketing. One of the most looked at subjects regarding solar is how to store solar energy for later use. That is why we have prepared a guide that will help you understand all you need to know about storing solar energy.
What is Solar Energy Storage?
Storage is meant to represent technologies that can capture electricity, store it as another form of energy for later use. However, there is no storage method that is 100% efficient, as some energy is always lost in the conversion. But depending on the type used, storage can improve power quality and increase system efficiency.
Solar Energy Storage Methods
Right now, there are a few ways for people and grid operators to store solar energy for later use. Those methods include batteries, pumped hydropower, and thermal energy storage. Most operators combine different methods to provide a more efficient and cheaper storage system. And while some methods are better than others, knowing how to store solar energy is especially important to grid operators.
Using Pumped-Storage Hydropower
One of the most common energy storage methods in the grid, pumped hydropower, is a storage technology based on water. Electrical energy pumps water into a reservoir when the demand is low. Once the demand is high again, the water flows back downhill and turns a turbine to generate electricity.
The biggest drawback of hydropower is that it needs proper landscapes and reservoirs. Those are either natural or man-made lakes that often require regulatory permits and a large investment of money. That is why some grid operators are still on the fence when it comes to implementing pumped storage hydropower into their systems.
Electrochemical batteries, similar to those found in laptops and mobile phones, can store solar energy. They work by taking advantage of a chemical reaction that happens once electricity enters the battery. When the battery discharges, the chemical reaction reverses, which creates voltage between contacts, releasing the stored electricity.
Battery storage is a popular choice for homeowners as it is easy to set up and doesn’t require much space. Most of them opt for lithium-ion batteries as they are the most efficient type out there. Other options out there include sodium, lead-acid, and nickel-based batteries.
Using Thermal Energy
Thermal energy storage usually involves a fluid, such as molten salt or water, or other material to store heat. The material is stored in a special insulated tank until the energy is needed. Depending on the type of system, it can be used for heating, cooling, or to generate electricity.
For example, to generate electricity, the heat boils water, creating steam which then drives a turbine. The movement of the turbine generates electricity that returns to the grid to fulfill the demand. This method is efficient and usually affordable, depending on the material used.
The Bottom Line
All in all, knowing how to store solar energy is important for both grid operators and homeowners. Without proper and efficient storage, the system will not have enough energy to provide during nighttime or winter. But thankfully, there are a lot of options on the market, perfect for any type of solar energy user. And while batteries remain a popular choice for households, researchers are working day and night to find new ways to store energy. One thing is clear — the future of solar energy storage looks brighter than ever.