Many thoughts are rising about solar energy storage problems as we try to achieve sustainable, clean and renewable energy.
The world is doing all it can to achieve sustainable development and this can only be achieved if certain factors like the provision of universal access to affordable, clean and reliable energy can be met.
Meeting these factors, we have to look at some facts like climate change, inequalities, resource constraints, population growth, geopolitics, food security and health which are prevalent in our world today.
As we strive for sustainable development. All hands must be on deck for this achievement. It’s easier said than done.
We can rally around creating awareness about climate change and the damage fossil fuel is doing to the environment even affecting us directly, we can choose to propagate laws banning the use of fossil fuel energy or we can just migrate gradually to these renewables knowing that they are not entirely safe.
There have been mistakes made by the industrial age that we seem to be making today. And that’s going into an endeavour without waging the risks.
The industrial age or the age that brought in the mass production and use of fossil fuels didn’t consider the risks going into that endeavour but the age strived because of the massive gain in the fossil fuel market, the basic technology for their production, the mass production and their effectiveness.
So, as the effects of the use of fossil fuel energy became more spelt out, people started pushing for alternative energy. Now, there is no safe energy out there but we can say that of a truth, renewable energy is far better considering the environmental and health risk.
But, have we looked at other factors of which some are environmental, health, efficiency, cost but to name a few. Transcending into the use of renewable energy puts us into a not entirely new circle of adverse effects as we are faced with fossil fuel energy some of which we are not familiar with like efficiency.
One can dream of an ideal world whose energy is gotten from major renewables like solar energy. But some issues are having to use these renewable energies and if tackled not just jumping into the widespread use of it can we reap good benefits from it.
Not like we did with fossil fuel energy. Renewable energy posits a lot of benefits we can draw from.
Hydroelectric power is still the most used renewable energy-producing massive energy for countries having fewer drawbacks but countries and communities that don’t have access to hydroelectric power consider solar energy as a better alternative seeing that solar energy is limitless.
But, there are some issues with having to use solar energy as alternative energy to the present fossil fuel energy.
The world is developing every day and that’s because the minds of people are developing bring better solutions to solve man’s problem and ensure a better life for ourselves and the generation to come.
The inception of solar energy production brought a whole new problem of variations in solar radiation leading to lesser than needed production of energy or no production at all.
This was not known in the use of fossil fuels. And since there is no continuous production as seen in fossil fuel energy production, there is a need for compensation for the periods of limited or no production to ensure continuous electrification of the world by renewable energy.
Since there are periods because of more than needed energy production through solar energy as a result of high radiation occurring some days or some hours, scientists have found a way to store these excess energies through the development of certain technologies that can be able to store solar energy.
Now, this is relatively new and started being known worldwide this decade so, there have some drawbacks if not handled could make using solar energy as an alternative and renewable energy catastrophic and not desirable.
That’s why we look at the problems that affect solar energy storage – solar energy storage problems.
Types of Solar Energy Storage Systems
There are various types of solar energy storage systems available and they are;
- Thermal energy storage systems
- Compressed air energy storage
- Hydrogen gas
- Pumped hydroelectric storage system
1. Thermal Energy Storage Systems
First used in 1985, thermal energy storage systems generate electricity by capturing heat from the sun and storing this energy in water, molten salts, or other fluids.
A thermal energy storage system typically consists of a storage medium in a reservoir or tank, a built-in refrigeration system, piping, pump(s) and controls.
There are two classes of thermal energy storage systems and this classification is based on its operating temperature. They include; low-temperature thermal energy storage systems and high-temperature energy storage systems.
The low-temperature thermal energy storage systems use cold water and a reheating process while the high-temperature thermal energy storage systems are based on latent and thermochemical heat storage.
Thermal energy storage systems can be able to store large quantities at a relatively low capital cost, while also avoiding the production of any major hazards.
2. Compressed Air Energy Storage
Here the elastic potential energy of compressed air is stored until its release to produce electricity. As solar energy enters the Compressed Air Energy Storage system, an electric motor drives an air compressor where compressed ambient air is stored under pressure in an underground cavern and is released when needed.
There can be unwanted energy discharges as a result of heat generation within the compressed air energy storage system as high pressures are applied to the air. For this to be minimised, inter and aftercoolers are present Compressed Air Energy Storage system to extract heat during the compression process.
3. Hydrogen Gas
Hydrogen gas is one of the largest energy components of any fuel. Making it an ideal method for the storage and distribution of energy even solar energy.
The hydrogen gas storage system manipulates the properties of cyclohexane for the production of energy through a reproducible cyclic process, where hydrogenation is followed by dehydrogenation.
The hydrogenation process forms cyclohexane (C6H12) through the addition of six hydrogen atoms from the abundant hydrocarbons to benzene (C6H6) present in the hydrogen storage system following solar exposure.
Dehydrogenation processes occur following the removal of the six carbons from cyclohexane, allowing this chemical to become available for use in energy storage devices and other applications.
Platinum-based nanoparticles are an essential aspect of the dehydrogenation reaction, in which these nanoparticles act as photocatalysts by providing a temporary donation of their photoexcited electrons to existing cyclohexane molecules.
This donation breaks the carbon-hydrogen bonds, releasing hydrogen atoms without causing excess heat to be released. It is one of the most efficient options for energy storage because it allows up to 97% of benzene to be converted back to cyclohexane.
4. Pumped Hydroelectric Storage Systems
This is the storage system that helps in the adaptability of the variability of solar radiation which causes the supply of energy to exceed demand in some periods and demand to exceed supply in some periods.
When supply exceeds demand, water is pumped into the upper reservoir to store solar energy and when demand exceeds supply, water within this initial reservoir is released by running downhill into a lower reservoir through turbines, generating electricity.
Flywheel is a similar transmission energy storage technology, this cylindrical-shaped device contains a large rotor inside a vacuum. When power is drawn from its energy source (sun), the rotor accelerates to very high speeds, storing electricity as rotational energy within the device.
Energy can then be distributed once the rotor is switched to “generation mode,” which slows down the rotor and returns electricity to the grid for consumer use.
Batteries, like flywheels, can be located anywhere, and are often seen as similar storage systems for the distribution of energy. For large-scale energy storage potential, batteries can vary from sodium-sulphur, metal-air, lithium-ion, and lead-acid batteries, depending on their energy source and application.
Top 9 Solar Energy Storage Problems
These are some of the solar energy storage problems that need to be addressed, they include:
- Lack of standardisation
- High Prices of Storage Systems
- Outdated regulatory policy and market design
- Incomplete definition of energy storage
- Heat Losses
- Efficiency losses
- Limited solar energy storage system to meet the current demand for solar energy storage.
- The hesitance of the government to accept solar because of its present cost.
- Variations in solar energy radiation.
1. Lack of Standardisation
This is one of the solar energy storage problems facing the solar energy sector and they need to be addressed. There is no specific standard for the mass production of batteries which are the main storage system used in solar energy production.
This is because of its complexity and also the fact that the storage of solar energy is an emerging market. With diverse technical requirements to be met as well as varied processes and policies to contend with, batteries face a roadblock for massive deployment.
2. High Prices of Storage Systems
This is one of the solar energy storage problems facing the solar energy sector and they need to be addressed. This is not just the main problem associated with solar energy storage systems but also the most vexing problem. Though the prices of solar batteries have reduced drastically, they are still outrageously high.
The larger your solar panels to trap more solar radiation generating energy or electricity, the larger the batteries and the higher the cost. Special solar energy storage systems for large or massive energy production for the grid of a particular community is very costly.
Though there are more efficient solar energy storage systems that can be used for communities especially in some locations during the winter periods, these solar energy storage systems are very complex and very costly. This has made many states or communities not adopt these efficient solar energy storage systems.
3. Outdated Regulatory Policy and Market Design
This is one of the solar energy storage problems facing the solar energy sector and they need to be addressed. Because solar energy storage is relatively new to the market, the regulatory policy has not yet covered solar energy storage systems as expected with emerging technologies.
Besides wholesale market rules, retail rules will also need to be updated, as residential and commercial and industrial interest grows.
4. Incomplete Definition of Energy Storage
This is one of the solar energy storage problems facing the solar energy sector and they need to be addressed. Because solar energy storage is relatively new to the market, stakeholders and policymakers around the world struggling with how to define fast-acting battery storage. This has made solar energy storage have an identity crisis.
5. Heat Losses
This is one of the solar energy storage problems facing the solar energy sector and they need to be addressed. Solar energy is heat energy meaning the storage of solar energy is also the storage of heat energy though this time it is used for electrification and other energy utilisation purposes. Just like switching off the gas or power source of a kettle of water.
The water might be boiled but as time goes on because of no connected power source, the temperature of the water reduces. So, the heat stored in the battery or storage system of a solar energy system decreases in temperature once there is no more solar radiation that could charge the batteries.
So, being an off-grid resident using solar energy for power generation or anyone using solar energy, you would have heat discharges even when you are not at home.
Though most times, this is compensated by the hours of solar radiation in the day, what will happen in winter periods, there would be blackouts except an alternative energy source is used, integrated or plugged in.
There are fixes to this problem though, but it is costly, not widespread and cannot be applied to most off-grid dwellers.
6. Efficiency Losses
This is one of the solar energy storage problems facing the solar energy sector and they need to be addressed. Just as any other battery would solar energy storage systems made up of majorly batteries depreciate in efficiency with time. A typical solar energy storage system that is made up of major batteries has a life span of 10 years. Now, this may seem to be huge but because of its cost, normal electricity tariff systems would be cheaper for 10 years.
7. Limited Solar Energy System to Meet the Current Demand for Solar Energy Storage
This is one of the solar energy storage problems facing the solar energy sector and they need to be addressed. The demand for solar energy storage is very massive and because of many factors like the cost of production, the solar energy storage systems that have been produced are less than the demand. Also, the cost of various solar energy storage systems has made many shy away from the purchase and use of
8. The Hesitance of the Government to Accept Solar Energy Storage Systems because of their Present Cost
This is one of the solar energy storage problems facing the solar energy sector and they need to be addressed. There has been over the years hesitance of the government to accept the use of solar in general for many countries because of the cost of a solar energy storage system. This is one of the major reasons why the migration from non-renewable energy to renewables like solar energy has not been
9. Variations in Solar Energy Radiation
This is one of the solar energy storage problems facing the solar energy sector and they need to be addressed. This is the most vexing problem with solar energy in general. Compared to other forms of energy production like fossil fuel energy, there are variations in solar radiation leading to lesser than needed production of energy or no production at all.
So, one cannot predict the hours of sunlight that would be available on a particular day. Too much solar charge might be able to overload the batteries and to get a better battery to add to the present ones can be very costly.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.