It is undeniable that solar energy is rapidly emerging as a leading sustainable and renewable source, offering a clean and viable alternative to traditional energy generation. While we are familiar with the process—solar panels capturing energy from the sun and converting it into usable power for homes and businesses—there is a notable limitation concerning solar panels: how do they capture energy when the sun isn't shining? What happens during cloudy days or at night? Does the absence of sunlight equate to no energy at those times? This is where the modernization of solar energy comes into play. In this article, we will delve into solar energy storage, its benefits and explore the essential roles of solar batteries, and learn more on the available solutions for effective energy storage.
Do Solar Panels Store Energy?
The quick answer is NO. You may be surprised, but contrary to some common misconceptions, solar panels do not actually store energy. As mentioned above, solar panels harness energy from the sun and then convert it into usable energy. They generate electricity in real time as sunlight is absorbed by the photovoltaic cells, so this means that they don’t produce electricity when the sun isn't shining. That’s where solar energy storage comes in, enabling users to use energy all year round.
What are the Advantages of Storing Solar Energy?
If you already have solar panels or considering having them installed, it is best to have a complete system that includes solar storage to get the most out of your solar panels. Here are the top 3 advantages of having solar storage:
- Balancing electricity loads and optimized usage – Traditional electricity generation requires an immediate match between generation and consumption. Storage addresses this challenge by allowing excess energy from solar production to be stored for later use. With this, homeowners can maximize the use of solar-generated electricity.
- Energy independence – Storing solar energy enables homeowners to reduce dependence on the grid. It also acts as a reliable solution for backup power during power disruptions.
- Reduced environmental impact – Solar energy storage contributes to a greener lifestyle. As you minimize your reliance on conventional energy sources, you also reduce your carbon footprint and support sustainability efforts
How is Solar Energy Stored?
Homeowners mostly opt for solar batteries as the main way to store solar energy. There are various methods of solar energy storage, such as mechanical and thermal energy storage; however, they are less practical due to materials, space requirements, and intricate components, making them unsuitable for residential use.
Let’s just briefly touch on the other types of solar energy storage:
Electrochemical storage – this type of storage is used on solar batteries, with lithium-ion batteries emerging as alternatives to traditional lead-acid batteries.
Thermal energy storage – this uses heat, either actively through mediums like oil and air or passively using materials like concrete or water.
Mechanical energy storage – this type of storage taps into the potential energy of objects, with flywheel storage being a popular example, storing excess energy in kinetic form for later use, albeit with higher upfront costs.
How Do Solar Batteries Work?
Solar batteries play an important role in the storage and utilization of solar energy. Think of it as a reservoir that collects surplus energy generated during peak sunlight hours for use during periods of low or no sunlight. Imagine having energy on hand to use during peak hours without the sun, like during evenings. This means that no energy is wasted, allowing you to use energy during high-demand times but low generation hours, thus improving efficiency and allowing flexibility of usage.
Let’s focus on lithium-ion batteries with them being the preferred type of solar batteries due to their longer lifespan, lower maintenance, and more compact nature compared to other types.
Lithium-ion batteries store solar energy via chemical reactions. As solar panels supply electricity to the battery storage system, a chemical reaction takes place, causing lithium ions to move through an electrolyte solution and release electrons. This process effectively stores energy for later use.
In a nutshell, batteries work by storing energy through special chemical reactions (charging phase), and when homeowners need the power, it will then discharge or release the stored energy (discharging phase). After usage, it will fall into the cycle of recharging by capturing energy again and retaining energy for later use. This ensures a continuous and reliable power supply even when solar panels are not actively producing electricity.
If you are wondering how long solar energy can be stored, it depends on the capacity of the storage system and the energy demands of the users. The duration of storage can range from a few hours to stretching to several days. With this, it is advisable to do your due diligence, and consult with solar energy professionals or system providers to ensure you have the best system suitable for your energy needs.
One of the leading and trusted providers of a complete solar system in the industry is Nature’s Generator. One product to consider is Nature’s Generator Powerhouse. This home eco-power solution can power almost anything with its maximum power output of 120V/240V 7200 Watt. You also have the option to add LiFePO4 or SLA Power Pod which allows you to upgrade battery capacity for an additional 4800Wh of battery capacity and you can add as many Power Pods as you like. This also allows you to upgrade your solar and wind input, translating to more free energy. For more information and to assist you in determining the setup for your requirements, feel free to get in touch with the Nature's Generator team here.
Solar energy is a growing sustainable and renewable source, providing an eco-friendly alternative to traditional energy generation. Despite our familiarity with solar panel functionality, the challenge of capturing energy during periods with little to no sunlight underscores the need for solar energy storage. Contrary to common misconceptions, solar panels do not store energy; they generate electricity in real time as sunlight is absorbed by photovoltaic cells. For uninterrupted energy supply, solar energy storage becomes crucial, allowing users to harness energy year-round. If you are considering going solar, a “complete package” that includes solar energy storage, not just solar panels, is a must to maximize the usage of solar energy. With solar batteries as a popular choice, it’s also noteworthy that overall cost has been decreasing over the years, thanks to the advancements in technology.
* We want to give credit where credit is due. Professional writer, Michelle Gamana, contributed research and content to this blog titled: How is Solar Energy Stored? Thank you, Michelle, for your contributions!