The difficulties of storing solar energy


The main hurdles of storing naturally generated power such as solar energy

Throughout the last century or so mankind has grown to be dependent on electricity.  Everyone utilizes it daily for nearly everything we do from daily necessities to everyday conveniences. Without any electrical power, most of us probably would not even know how to survive. Before the invention and utilization of electricity, people utilized gas lanterns for light and fireplaces to keep their homes warm as they were the only options available.

Throughout the years, household appliances grew to become energy friendly, which allowed us all to have more free time since we no longer had to work as hard.  Washing machines, electric dryers, dishwashers, and even stoves powered by electricity completely revolutionized our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, the majority of our electricity is created by non-renewable resources which will one day be depleted. Mankind needs to find new sources of renewable energy and better ways to store the electricity we’ve already generated so that it will be available in the future.

For the past 30 years or so mankind has begun to take a serious look at solar energy. We have started to learn how to harness it and make use of it more and more efficiently within the last decade. If you’re not sure what solar energy is it’s using the power generated by the sun’s heat to create electricity. Unlike coal and oil, it is an energy source we will never run out of so it should be taken seriously and become a more mainstream way of producing power.

Thermal mass systems are a way for us to utilize the Earth’s natural resources to construct a way to store solar-generated power.  This method of storage utilizes renewable resources such as dirt, water along with man-made resources such as cement to assist in temporarily storing naturally generated electricity.  You can use thermal mass to heat almost anything.  It can power hot water tanks and even furnaces even after the sun has gone down. Thermal mass systems are a short-term method but happen to be the easiest and most cost-effective way to use solar-generated electricity.

There is also thermo-chemically methods to store solar energy for more extended periods of times, but right now the technology to create these devices are quite expensive. Some examples of this type of storage include:

The crudest method is probably the use of a form of paraffin wax placed inside a storage tank.  When the wax is cold, it is completely solid but once it is warmed by the sun, it becomes liquefied it can provide heat for a very long time without requiring any sort of cooling down methods. It takes a very long time for the wax to solidify again which means it can provide heat for many days depending on the size of the storage unit.

Some people recommend the use of eutectic salts to store heat because they are inexpensive and can store heat in a heating system longer. However, this overtime has proven to be unreliable as repairs to the storage units eventually become an everyday task.

Thanks to the technology created by Tesla motors rechargeable batteries have become an excellent way to efficiently store energy.  This type of storage allows the power source connected to the battery to maintain its power.  While this technology does allow long-term storage regular maintenance and battery replacement can become an issue. Also, some of the materials used to create these batteries can have a harmful effect on the environment.

We have come a long way in finding ways to store renewable natural energy we just need to figure out a way to make these methods more practical financially and efficient. Once we create a viable storage unit to harness solar power the planet will have a cheap and endless supply of energy.

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