The wrath of climate change has undoubtedly forced the world to embrace green energy and the use of solar energy has been fundamental to achieving this goal.
The cornerstone of solar energy is harnessing energy from the sun and using it for our everyday lives, but how can we store it for another time?
If it is possible, how exactly would you store it? And what equipment would you need?
How Does Solar Energy Work?
The solar panel energy transformation occurs as panels capture UV rays from the sun to be used as energy in the form of electricity.
Every solar panel contains solar cells that absorb sunlight and convert the UV rays into energy.
A solar panel inverter converts the direct current made by the solar panel into alternating current which can then be used to power appliances.
Knowing how solar panels work is key in understanding how we properly and safely store their energy.
Can Solar Energy Be Stored
The sun is the provider of energy for solar panels, which begs the question, is it possible to store energy captured from the sun during the day to later use at night?
One of the facts about solar panels is that, on their own, they can’t store any electricity. To do that, you need to invest in extra equipment.
Energy collected from the sun can be stored in a solar battery and this energy can be used at a later stage.
What Are Solar Batteries
Picture yourself picking cherries from a tree and storing the cherries in a basket to eat later at home.
The tree you are collecting the cherries from is the sun, the cherries are the solar energy, and the basket is your solar battery.
A solar battery is simply a storage device for the solar energy you collect. Solar panels take energy from the sun and keep it in a solar battery to be used later.
How Solar Batteries Work
An ordinary solar panel kit with no solar battery sends any excess energy created into the electricity grid.
This is called net metering and essentially allows you to use less electricity that is billable.
The main function of a solar battery is to take the excess energy, which would usually be exported to the electricity grid, and store it for later use.
The Benefits of Solar Batteries
Excess energy can be utilized from a battery once it’s been installed and charged. This results in two important implications.
Firstly, the batteries provide an energy backup, which means that even though you are still connected to the grid, you'll essentially be operating off-grid.
Operating off-grid means that you will still have power to operate appliances even in the event of a power outage.
Secondly, a battery can significantly reduce the amount you'll have to pay on your utility bill as you can pull energy from the battery instead of the electricity grid.
Types of Solar Systems
The three main types of solar systems are off-grid, on-grid, and hybrid systems, each of which stores energy in different ways.
There are pros and cons of each solar system and they are discussed below
Off-Grid Solar Systems
These systems are typically not connected to the electrical grid and energy is stored in the battery of the solar panel kit.
Like any rechargeable battery, like that in your cellphone, energy is taken from the solar cells and exported to the battery, and stored for later use.
On-Grid Solar Systems
With these solar systems, energy is transferred directly to the electricity grid after the inverter has converted direct current into alternating current.
When you use more energy than your panels produce, the shortfall electricity is simply supplied from your local electricity grid.
When your solar system does produce more energy than that being used, this energy is put back into the electricity grid.
The benefit of this system is that your utility, often at higher rates, pays you for the excess electricity put back into the grid.
Energy is therefore not stored for later use but rather redistributed into the electricity grid for immediate use for everyone else connected to your electrical grid.
Hybrid Solar Systems
A combination of an off-grid and on-grid solar system, hybrid systems have become extremely popular because of their efficiency.
Simply put, hybrid solar systems are on-grid systems with a battery for energy storage.
The benefit of a hybrid system over an on-grid one is that in the event of a power outage, you still have power for your home thanks to the energy stored by the battery.
In an off-grid solar system, batteries store energy until they reach capacity, after which, any energy that cannot be stored by the full battery is simply wasted.
The benefit of a hybrid system is that any excess energy which isn’t stored in the batteries is sold back to the grid.
Hybrid solar systems, therefore, encompass the benefits of both on-grid and off-grid solar systems.
Types of Solar Batteries
There is a vast selection of solar batteries available on the market and each battery suits different needs. Choosing the right one to meet your needs is crucial.
Lead Acid Batteries
Since the invention of solar panels in the 1950s, lead-acid batteries have been used to store energy for long periods of time.
These deep cycle batteries are known for their reliability and durability.
There are two subdivisions of lead-acid batteries which are “flooded lead-acid batteries” and “sealed lead-acid batteries.”
One of the main reasons for its popularity is its cost-effectiveness, as it is the cheapest form of energy storage.
One disadvantage is that flooded lead-acid batteries require ventilation and regular maintenance which can lead to the battery leaking.
Lead-acid batteries are best suited for off-grid solar systems or in the case of a power outage.
This type of battery is relatively new to the solar energy industry and grew in popularity during the increase in demand for electric vehicles.
One of the main reasons for their popularity is how little maintenance is required to keep them going.
Lithium-ion batteries have a long lifespan, with ordinary warranties usually guaranteeing a lifespan of approximately 10 years.
One of the few disadvantages of lithium-ion batteries is their price as they cost more than any other energy storage device.
These batteries pose a higher threat of catching fire than any other type of battery. However, if they are installed properly, the chances of this happening are nearly zero.
Due to their ability to hold more power in a limited space, lithium-ion batteries are best suited for residential solar installations.
Popular in the aircraft industry, nickel-cadmium batteries are the least popular compared to the two batteries mentioned previously.
The main benefit of these batteries is their impressive durability and ability to function at extreme temperatures.
They also don’t require complex management systems and are low maintenance.
A major disadvantage of these batteries is the fact that cadmium is banned in many countries as it is extremely toxic.
Nickel-cadmium batteries are best suited for large-scale solar applications such as utility solar energy storage because of their durability.
These are a relatively new trend in the solar energy world.
Their large size contributes to their high price and this leads to them not being popular for residential solar applications.
One of its main advantages is its 100 percent depth of discharge, which means you can drain all the energy stored by these batteries without damaging them.
Flow batteries have the longest lifespan of all — approximately 30 years — and they’re low-maintenance as well as low-risk in terms of fire hazard.
The main disadvantages of these batteries are that they have low charge and discharge rates, meaning they need to be large to be effective and they are the most expensive type of battery.
They’re best suited for large-scale solar applications due to their need for space.
Batteries Available on the Market
There are many online shops where you could can the battery you desire and Shop Solar Kits is one of the most reliable and affordable shops you can visit.
All lithium-ion batteries come with a warranty, usually 10 years, and are backed up with a lifetime of customer support.
One of the most popular lithium batteries available in the SOK Battery 206 Ah 12V LiFeP04 Deep Cycle Lithium Solar Battery.
This battery has fantastic reviews for an array of reasons, including its durability and value-for-money.
Another fantastic product is the Lion Emergy Safari UT 1300 Lithium-Ion Solar Battery 105Ah which can be used for small-scale solar applications.
This lithium-ion battery has received great reviews for its lifespan, price, and reliability.
The increase in the use of solar energy has had a positive impact on the environment and allowed for solar energy users to pay less in utilities.
Solar panels possess the ability to store energy so long as they are paired with the correct equipment, such as solar batteries.
When deciding on solar batteries for yourself, it’s important that you consider the pros and cons of each type of battery to help with your decision.
In a world with an ever-changing climate, it’s clear that solar energy and storage are the future when it comes to powering vehicles, homes, and other appliances.
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