Solar energy is the next big thing in energy generation. With growing greenhouse gas emissions and the rapid depletion of fossil fuels, solar power will be vital to meet the rising energy consumption across the globe. However, there is a catch. You can’t generate solar energy anytime you want.
Storage plays a key role and integrating solar power with storage technologies will enable you to generate electricity when the sun isn’t shining. Now you must be thinking about how to store solar energy and what are some methods for storing solar energy. Worry not, this blog will be a comprehensive guide to learning the methods for storing solar energy and more.
Let’s begin with understanding the major solar energy storage methods.
How to Store Solar Energy – A Detailed Guide
1) Battery Storage
One of the most common and effective ways to store solar energy is through batteries. Batteries store excess energy generated during sunny periods for use during cloudy days or at night. Lithium-ion batteries, in particular, have gained prominence due to their high energy density and long lifespan.
2) Pumped Hydro Storage
Another established method is pumped hydro storage. Excess solar energy is used to pump water uphill to a reservoir during sunny periods. When energy is needed, the stored water is released, flowing downhill and driving turbines to generate electricity.
3) Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES)
CAES is an innovative solution involving the compression of air using excess solar energy. The compressed air is stored and released later to generate electricity, with the option of combining it with natural gas to enhance efficiency.
4) Thermal Energy Storage:
Thermal energy storage systems store excess solar energy as heat, which can be later converted into electricity. Molten salt and phase change materials are commonly used to store and release heat efficiently.
5) Flywheel Energy Storage
Flywheel systems store kinetic energy generated from excess solar power by spinning a rotor. This kinetic energy is converted back into electricity when needed, providing a quick response for short-term energy needs.
Now, that you are aware of solar energy storage and applications, let’s move to the benefits of storing solar power.
4 Advantages of Solar Energy Storage
I) Grid Independence: By employing effective solar energy storage solutions, individuals and businesses can reduce their dependence on the traditional grid. This not only ensures a more reliable power supply but also promotes energy resilience.
II) Increased Energy Accessibility: Solar energy storage facilitates the accessibility of electricity in remote or off-grid areas. This is particularly significant for communities without access to a stable power infrastructure.
III) Reduced Energy Waste: Efficient storage systems help prevent the wastage of excess solar energy generated during peak sunlight hours. This ensures that the maximum potential of solar power is harnessed and utilized.
IV) Smooth Transition to Renewable Energy: Solar energy storage plays a pivotal role in the transition to a fully renewable energy landscape. It addresses the intermittency of solar power, making it a more reliable and consistent energy source.
Next, let’s break down the process of how to store solar energy using batteries.
Mechanism of Battery Storage: A Step-by-Step Process
How do batteries store solar energy? How to store batteries? Fret not. We will take you through the ins and outs of battery storage systems. Start reading to explore the complete process for battery storage.
Step 1: Solar Panels Generate Electricity
How much energy does one solar panel make? Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) cells, convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. When sunlight hits the solar cells, it excites electrons, creating a flow of electric current. An average solar panel generates approximately 1.5 kilowatts of energy every day.
Step 2: Charge Controller
Before the electricity generated by the solar panels is sent to the battery, it passes through a charge controller. The charge controller regulates the voltage and current going into the battery to prevent overcharging, which could damage the battery.
Step 3: Battery Storage
The core of solar energy storage lies in the battery. The electricity generated by the solar panels is stored in the battery in the form of chemical energy. This is typically done through reversible electrochemical reactions in the battery.
Step 4: Chemical Reactions
In a lithium-ion battery, one of the most common types used in solar energy systems, lithium ions move from the negative electrode (anode) to the positive electrode (cathode) during the charging process. This movement stores electrical energy as chemical energy. During discharge, when electricity is needed, the lithium ions move back to the anode, releasing the stored energy.
Step 5: Direct Current to Alternating Current Conversion
The stored electrical energy in the battery is in the form of direct current (DC). However, most household appliances and the electrical grid operate on alternating current (AC). Therefore, an inverter is used to convert DC to AC, making the stored energy compatible with standard electrical systems.
Step 6: Powering Electrical Devices
When electricity is required, especially during periods when solar panels are not actively generating power (such as at night or during cloudy days), the stored energy in the batteries is drawn upon to power electrical devices, appliances, or the entire home or facility.
Step 7: Monitoring and Management
Advanced battery storage systems often come with monitoring and management systems. These systems track the state of charge, voltage, and temperature of the battery. They also enable users to manage the discharge and charging cycles efficiently.
Step 8: Grid Connection (Optional)
In some setups, the solar-powered battery system may be connected to the electrical grid. This allows excess energy generated by the solar panels to be fed back into the grid, earning credits or compensation from utility companies. In times of low solar generation, electricity can be drawn from the grid if the battery is depleted.
Now, it’s time to understand the major trends in solar storage technologies.
How to Store Solar Energy – Latest Innovations
1) Flow Batteries
Flow batteries are a type of rechargeable battery where chemical components are dissolved in liquids, and energy is stored in the liquid electrolyte. These batteries can be scaled up easily, making them suitable for large-scale energy storage applications. The ability to decouple power and energy capacity makes flow batteries particularly attractive for long-duration energy storage.
2) Hybrid Energy Storage Systems
Hybrid systems combine different types of energy storage technologies to leverage the strengths of each. For example, a combination of lithium-ion batteries for short-duration, high-power needs, and flow batteries for longer-duration, high-energy storage can provide a more versatile and efficient solution.
3) Solar-Integrated Storage Systems
Some newer systems are designed to integrate solar panels with energy storage seamlessly. These solutions often include advanced power electronics and energy management systems to optimize the use of solar energy and provide reliable power even during periods of low solar generation.
4) Advanced Thermal Energy Storage
Thermal energy storage is not a new concept, but advancements in materials and designs are making it more efficient. High-temperature phase-change materials and advanced heat exchanger systems are improving the capacity of thermal storage systems to store and release energy effectively.
5) Gravity-Based Energy Storage
Gravity-based energy storage systems use the potential energy of raised masses, such as heavy blocks or containers of materials, to store energy. During periods of excess energy generation, the mass is lifted. When energy is needed, the mass is lowered, and the potential energy is converted back into electricity.
6) Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES)
SMES systems use superconducting materials to store energy in a magnetic field. These systems can store large amounts of energy and release it rapidly. SMES is known for its high efficiency and quick response times, making it suitable for applications where rapid and reliable energy discharge is essential.
Finally, let’s quickly address the commonly asked questions on how to store solar energy.
FAQs( How to Store Solar Energy)
Can you store solar energy at home?
Residential facilities store solar energy inside an electric battery bank. There are plenty of batteries available in the market that can be kept indoors for energy storage.
Why do solar panels need to be stored?
Solar panels need to be stored to balance electrical loads. Without storage, it will be impossible to manage fluctuating power demand. Energy storage allows surplus generation to be used during peak demand.
What is the best way to store solar energy?
Batteries are the best way to store solar energy. The chemical reaction inside the battery stores the electricity for later use.
Do solar batteries store energy?
Yes, solar batteries help to store energy. The different types of batteries commonly used are lithium-ion, lead-acid, and flow.
How to store solar energy without batteries?
There are other storage techniques that can be used to replace batteries like flywheel, thermal energy storage, and pumped hydroelectric.
What is used to store solar energy?
Batteries are primarily used for solar energy storage like lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, lithium-ion, and graphite batteries.
Can solar power save you money?
Yes, it is possible to save money on your electricity bills if you are generating electricity from solar energy. In addition to subsidized rates, you can sell the surplus power back to state electricity authorities to earn extra cash.
How much energy is generated by solar panels?
Let’s suppose, a residential facility receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. You can expect to generate around 546 to 874 KW hours of electricity annually. The values can change subject to panel capacity and weather conditions.
To conclude, understanding how to store solar energy is crucial for maximizing the potential of solar power and transitioning to a sustainable energy future. Whether through batteries, pumped hydro storage, compressed air systems, thermal storage, or flywheel technology, the options are diverse, catering to different needs and applications.
As technology advances and economies of scale improve, the efficiency and affordability of solar storage solutions are expected to increase. Get in touch with Sustvest today to gain a clear perspective on the renewable energy sector.
Founder of Sustvest
Hardik completed his B.Tech from BITS Pilani. Keeping the current global scenario, the growth of renewable energy in mind, and people looking for investment opportunities in mind he founded SustVest ( formerly, Solar Grid X ) in 2018. This venture led him to achieve the ‘Emerging Fintech Talent of the Year in MENA region ‘ in October 2019.