Solar energy is widely regarded as the energy source of the future. More and more people are realizing its promising potential as an eco-friendly energy variety. It is being utilized in large scale worldwide. However, its truly wide growth is retarded by lack of storage options. An ideal storage system could resize its storage capabilities and deal with the energy surplus or deficit appropriately. Below, we take a look at some of the best methods to feasibly store solar energy.
‘Smart battery’ uses a technology, which works on the principle of storing surplus energy in chemical form, and converting and using the same when required. These batteries can be utilized according to need, even when there is fluctuation in the power generated. Lead-acid batteries and lithium–ion batteries make up the most common types, but the former are slowly losing prominence.
Heat-Based Energy Storage
Yet another promising storage technology involves ‘Heat-based energy storage’. It generates energy by focusing the sun’s heat through mirror arrays, instead of photovoltaic cells. The converged sunlight is then used to elevate the temperature of a heat-holding substance, such as molten salt. This stored heat is utilized in vaporizing water, which in turn runs a steam turbine and an electric generator. Such a device can store thermal energy according to varying needs, meaning it solves the problem of inconsistent energy supply due to climatic changes.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Hydrogen fuel cells carry out electrolysis, using the electric output generated from the sunlight. In this process, water molecules are separated first into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then stored, and later used to run a fuel cell. A fuel cell converts hydrogen back into water, thereby producing electricity by combining it with oxygen. Thus, power could be drawn at the convenience of the user.
One of the major advantages of this technology is that it can function for as long as the supplies of hydrogen and oxygen are kept consistent. Besides, the reactions inside the fuel cell also produce heat, which could also be used for heating purposes.
There is a worldwide drive to make energy production more eco-friendly, and solar-based technologies are at the fore of these efforts. Hence, it is important to be equipped with the best storage technologies to meet the changing demands, and make them commonly affordable. This would lead to a collective increase in the use of renewable energy sources, and benefit our planet in multiple ways.