Storing Energy From Solar Panels
A common question when it comes to solar is, how is solar power beneficial if the sun isn’t always shining? While yes, solar energy is reliant on the sun's shining rays to generate power, modern improvements in energy storage have made it so you can use your energy all year around.
Solar Energy: From Sun to Storage
From energy generation to energy storage, solar panels can help power your life on rainy days too.
Benefits of Solar Energy Storage
Proper and effective energy storage is critical to getting the most out of your solar panels. Solar storage offers a variety of benefits, including:
- Energy at all times. Solar panels have revolutionized personal and global sustainability. The ability to harness the energy of the sun and turn it into power has made being more ecological just a little bit easier. But how do solar panels see success when the highest demand for energy is at night? During the day, solar panels generate far more energy than is needed at that exact time. This means there is almost a constant excess of solar power. Solar energy storage allows homeowners to house that energy somewhere and use it when needed, whether at night or on rainy and cloudy days.
- Lower electric bills. While some states offer compensation for energy generated, others do not. But that doesn’t mean your excess energy must go to waste. Battery storage can help you make the most of your solar panels while reducing your energy bills. Any excess energy you store at home can be used for powering your home from your personal energy supply, resulting in significant cost savings.
- Reservoir generation. Like all energy, solar power needs to be used as soon as it’s collected or it is lost. Solar energy storage allows for a bit more freedom when it comes to utilizing your energy. Creating an energy reservoir enables you to use your solar power when the demand is high and release it when the demand is low. This surplus provides a way to keep your home running even when there is no sun in sight.
- Reduced personal footprint. More and more, people are making sustainability a personal responsibility. Solar energy storage can power your life in more ways than one while lowering your overall carbon footprint. Aside from powering your lights, using batteries that store solar energy can help you charge home appliances, electronics, and even electric cars with the proper battery sizes.
- Personal preparedness. Because we generally all pull from a common energy source, the grid can undergo momentary disruptions and periods of weakness due to significant weather events, including storms and fires. With adequately stored solar power, you can be prepared for any issues that can occur based on energy grid overuse.
What kinds of solar energy storage are there?
Solar energy storage comes in various forms, and while not all types can be used by homeowners, there is no shortage of ways to harness the sun's power. The main types of solar energy storage include:
- Electrical energy storage. Electrical energy storage is perhaps the form of energy storage with which we are all the most familiar. Electrical energy storage uses batteries to house power and generate it into what we know as electricity. Electrical energy storage can be used to power just about anything in your home. The most common type of electrical energy storage is lead-acid batteries. But newer, more efficient batteries known as lithium-ion batteries are starting to emerge more and more.
- Thermal energy storage. Thermal energy storage refers to using heat to store energy. This storage method can be either active or passive. Active energy storage uses mediums such as oil and air that are heated by solar energy and then distributed via a pump or a fan. Passive energy storage uses materials that hold heat naturally, like concrete or water, to maintain power.
- Chemical energy storage. Chemical energy storage refers to storing energy in chemical bonds. This type of energy storage is very different from what most homeowners would use. For example, in chemical energy storage, hydrogen gas can be used to store the energy and then later convert it to electricity. Another method of applying chemical energy storage is through molten salt to store thermal energy until it is ready to be used.
- Mechanical energy storage. Mechanical energy storage uses the potential energy of an object to generate power. These mechanical systems take surplus power, turn them into mechanical power, then generate usable electricity from their movement. For example, flywheel storage is a popular form of mechanical energy storage. Flywheel systems keep excess energy in kinetic, meaning moving, energy, which can then be used when the energy is needed. While their energy generation is relatively low cost, they do come with hefty upfront price tags.
How do you store energy from solar panels?
Solar panel energy storage is often stored by using batteries. These batteries can include lead-acid batteries, nickel-cadmium batteries, lithium-ion batteries, and flow batteries. The most common option of these is often the lithium-ion battery because it requires less maintenance, lasts longer, and takes up less space than other traditional batteries. But, to understand how solar panel energy can be stored, it is essential first to understand the basics of battery storage.
What is battery storage, and how does it work?
Understanding how batteries work goes hand in hand with understanding how batteries store energy in the first place. In the simplest of terms, batteries function based on three main components: the cathode, which is a positive electrode, the anode, which is a negative electrode, and the electrolyte, which is a chemical layer between the two electrodes. The electrolyte acts as a passage of electrical charges to pass back and forth.
For batteries to work, a device, like a phone or a computer, is plugged in and introduces electrons to the anode. The electrons then attract lithium ions from the cathode side and move them through the electrolyte passage creating a positive electrical charge. When you are ready to use and unplug your phone, the electrons leave the lithium ions and flow to the cathode through the circuit, which powers your phone or computer.
So how does solar fit in?
In solar energy storage, the solar panels release electrons in the place of plugging in your phone or computer. The electrons then pass through a regulator to ensure that the energy that flows in is the proper amount. This helps to avoid overcharging and burnout. The last step is converting the energy to the right “type” for appropriate use. The electricity that comes from solar power is often in the form of a direct current (DC). In contrast, the electricity we usually use is in the form of an alternating current (AC). By using an inverter, the DC current is turned into an AC current, completing the final step in using your solar power!
How long do solar batteries last?
Most solar companies offer system warranties that span about 25 years. This being said, that doesn’t necessarily mean the system itself will last that amount of time, but any repairs needed in the timeframe would be free of cost. To get the most out of your solar investment, it is vital that you monitor your system's performance to ensure it is performing at its peak ability. Additionally, maintaining regular service appointments can help save you from costly repairs down the line or when your system’s warranty runs out.
Contact Us Today
Like all methods of electricity, solar can have its challenges. That’s why connecting with an experienced solar partner is necessary to avoid headaches down the line. Contact an expert at SolarUnion to see if solar battery storage is right for you and continue your journey to personal sustainability.