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What is Solar Energy Storage and Why You Need It.

10/10/23 | Solar

Solar energy is one of the most abundant and clean sources of power on the planet. It can reduce your carbon footprint, lower your electricity bills, and increase your energy independence. But there is one challenge that solar energy faces: it is not always available when you need it. The sun does not shine at night, and it can be obscured by clouds, dust, or rain during the day. This means that you cannot rely on solar energy alone to meet your energy needs, unless you have a way to store it for later use. This is where solar energy storage comes in.

What is Solar Energy Storage?

Solar energy storage is the process of capturing the excess electricity generated by solar panels and storing it in a device or system that can release it when needed. Solar energy storage can help you use more of your own solar power, reduce your dependence on the grid, and provide backup power in case of a blackout. There are different types of solar energy storage systems, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the most common ones:

Batteries

Batteries are devices that store electricity as chemical energy and convert it back to electricity when needed. They are the most popular and widely used form of solar energy storage for homes and businesses. Batteries can be connected to your solar panel system, either on-grid or off-grid, and can store the excess solar power that you do not use during the day. You can then use this stored power at night, when the sun is not shining, or during peak demand periods, when the grid electricity is more expensive. Batteries can also provide backup power in case of a power outage, keeping your essential appliances and devices running.


There are different types of batteries available for solar energy storage, such as lead-acid, lithium-ion, nickel-cadmium, and flow batteries. Each type has its own characteristics, such as capacity, efficiency, lifespan, cost, and environmental impact. Some of the most popular solar batteries on the market today are the Tesla Powerwall, the LG Chem RESU, the Sonnen Eco, and the Enphase Encharge. These batteries are designed to be compatible with most solar panel systems and offer high performance, reliability, and safety. However, batteries also have some drawbacks, such as high upfront cost, maintenance requirements, limited cycle life, and potential fire hazards.

Thermal Energy Storage

Thermal energy storage is the process of storing heat or cold energy for later use. It can be used to store solar thermal energy, which is the heat generated by solar collectors or concentrators. Solar thermal energy can be used for heating water, space heating, cooling, or industrial processes. Thermal energy storage can help you use solar thermal energy more efficiently, by shifting the demand from daytime to nighttime or from summer to winter. Thermal energy storage can also reduce the need for backup fossil fuel generators or grid electricity.


There are different types of thermal energy storage systems, such as sensible heat storage, latent heat storage, and thermochemical storage. Sensible heat storage uses materials that change their temperature when they store or release heat, such as water, rocks, or molten salt. Latent heat storage uses materials that change their phase (solid, liquid, or gas) when they store or release heat, such as ice, wax, or paraffin. Thermochemical storage uses materials that undergo reversible chemical reactions when they store or release heat, such as metal hydrides, ammonia, or hydrogen. Some of the most popular thermal energy storage systems on the market today are the Ice Energy Ice Bear, the Sunamp UniQ, and the Abengoa Solana. These systems are designed to be integrated with solar thermal systems and offer high efficiency, durability, and scalability. However, thermal energy storage also has some drawbacks, such as high installation cost, heat loss, and limited availability.

Mechanical Energy Storage

Mechanical energy storage is the process of storing energy as kinetic or potential energy and converting it back to electricity when needed. It can be used to store solar electrical energy, which is the electricity generated by solar photovoltaic panels. Solar electrical energy can be used for lighting, appliances, electronics, or electric vehicles. Mechanical energy storage can help you balance the supply and demand of solar electricity, by storing the excess solar power when it is abundant and releasing it when it is scarce. Mechanical energy storage can also improve the stability and reliability of the grid, by providing frequency and voltage regulation, load leveling, and peak shaving.


There are different types of mechanical energy storage systems, such as pumped hydro storage, compressed air energy storage, flywheel energy storage, and gravitational energy storage. Pumped hydro storage uses water to store and release energy, by pumping it uphill to a reservoir when there is excess solar power and letting it flow downhill through a turbine when there is a need for power. Compressed air energy storage uses air to store and release energy, by compressing it in an underground cavern or tank when there is excess solar power and expanding it through a turbine when there is a need for power. Flywheel energy storage uses a spinning wheel to store and release energy, by accelerating it with an electric motor when there is excess solar power and decelerating it with a generator when there is a need for power. Gravitational energy storage uses a heavy mass to store and release energy, by lifting it up with a crane or cable when there is excess solar power and dropping it down when there is a need for power. Some of the most popular mechanical energy storage systems on the market today are the Gravity Power Module, the ARES Rail Energy Storage, and the Beacon Power Flywheel. These systems are designed to be coupled with solar power plants and offer high power, fast response, and long lifespan. However, mechanical energy storage also has some drawbacks, such as high land use, environmental impact, and noise pollution.

Why You Need Solar Energy Storage

Solar energy storage can offer you many benefits, depending on your energy needs, goals, and preferences. Here are some of the main reasons why you might want to consider solar energy storage for your home or business:

  • You want to use more of your own solar power and reduce your reliance on the grid. Solar energy storage can help you maximize your self-consumption of solar power, by storing the excess solar power that you generate during the day and using it at night or when the sun is not shining. This way, you can reduce the amount of electricity that you buy from the grid, which can lower your electricity bills and increase your energy independence. You can also avoid paying for grid fees, taxes, or surcharges that might apply to your electricity consumption.
  • You want to save money on your electricity bills and take advantage of time-of-use rates. Solar energy storage can help you optimize your electricity costs, by storing the excess solar power that you generate during off-peak periods and using it during peak periods, when the grid electricity is more expensive. This way, you can reduce your peak demand charges, which can account for a significant portion of your electricity bills. You can also take advantage of time-of-use rates, which are dynamic pricing schemes that vary the price of electricity based on the time of day, season, or market conditions. By using solar energy storage, you can shift your electricity consumption from high-price periods to low-price periods, which can lower your electricity bills and increase your savings.
  • You want to have backup power in case of a power outage or emergency. Solar energy storage can help you increase your energy security and resilience, by providing you with backup power in case of a power outage or emergency. This way, you can keep your essential appliances and devices running, such as your refrigerator, lights, phone, or medical equipment. You can also protect your solar panel system from damage, by isolating it from the grid and preventing it from feeding power back to the grid, which can be dangerous for the utility workers and the grid equipment. Solar energy storage can also help you prepare for natural disasters, such as hurricanes, wildfires, or floods, which can cause prolonged power outages and disrupt the grid infrastructure.

How to Choose the Best Solar Energy Storage System for You

Solar energy storage is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The best solar energy storage system for you depends on your specific energy needs, goals, and preferences. Here are some of the factors that you should consider when choosing a solar energy storage system for your home or business:

  • Your solar panel system size and configuration. The size and configuration of your solar panel system will determine how much solar power you can generate and how much excess solar power you can store. You should choose a solar energy storage system that matches your solar panel system size and configuration, to avoid under-sizing or over-sizing your storage capacity. Under-sizing your storage capacity can limit the amount of solar power that you can store and use, while over-sizing your storage capacity can increase your upfront cost and reduce your return on investment.
  • Your electricity consumption patterns and habits. Your electricity consumption patterns and habits will determine how much electricity you use and when you use it. You should choose a solar energy storage system that matches your electricity consumption patterns and habits, to optimize your self-consumption of solar power and your electricity costs. You should also consider your future electricity consumption plans and expectations, such as adding new appliances, devices, or electric vehicles, or changing your lifestyle, work, or family situation.
  • Your budget and financial incentives. Your budget and financial incentives will determine how much you can afford and how much you can save by installing a solar energy storage system. You should choose a solar energy storage system that fits your budget and maximizes your financial incentives, such as tax credits, rebates, grants, or net metering programs. You should also consider the total cost of ownership of your solar energy storage system, which includes the upfront cost, the installation cost, the maintenance cost, the operation cost, and the replacement cost.
  • Your environmental impact and values will determine how much you care about the environmental benefits and drawbacks of your solar energy storage system. You should choose a solar energy storage system that aligns with your environmental impact and values, such as reducing your greenhouse gas emissions, minimizing your waste generation, or supporting renewable energy development. You should also consider the environmental impact and values of the manufacturers, suppliers, and installers of your solar energy storage system, such as their sustainability practices, certifications, or ratings.

Conclusión

Solar energy storage is a valuable addition to your solar panel system, as it can help you use more of your own solar power, save money on your electricity bills, have backup power in case of a power outage, and reduce your environmental impact. However, solar energy storage is not a simple or cheap solution, as it involves choosing the right type, size, and configuration of storage system for your specific energy needs, goals, and preferences. You should do your research, compare your options, and consult with a professional before installing a solar energy storage system for your home or business. By doing so, you can enjoy the benefits of solar energy storage for years to come.

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