Can Solar Power be Stored?

Solar energy is one of the most important discoveries humanity has ever made. This clean and renewable energy source is one of the best chances we have at limiting the damage done to our environment from our reliance on fossil fuels. When solar power first started gaining popularity there was one problem that needed to be tackled, first - how does solar energy work when the sun isn't out?

Fortunately, scientists have had the solution to this problem figured out for some time now - solar power storage. This process allows all excess energy absorbed during the day to be stored for future use. Solar power storage is particularly helpful because energy demand in households is generally at its highest during evening hours when the sun is no longer shining.

There are 3 popular solar power storage methods available: mechanical, thermal, and battery.

Mechanical Solar Power Storage

Mechanical solar power storage works by converting excess amounts of power into mechanical power and then back into electricity at a future point. This is done in one of three different ways. There's the flywheel in which the surplus solar energy spins a wheel that can later resupply that energy as electricity. There's pumped hydro in which the surplus energy is used to pump water uphill to water turbines that can produce electricity. And there's compressed air where the reallocated solar energy pumps air into large tanks that can then later be released to generate electricity.

Thermal Solar Power Storage

Another solar power storage method is thermal. In this process, the heat from solar power is obtained using various substances, such as molten salt or water. This substance is stored in an insulated tank where the heat can be retained and later repurposed to generate energy.

Battery Solar Power Storage

The third way excess solar power can be stored for future use is by using electrochemical batteries. Lithium-ion ones are the most popular choice for solar energy, but there are also lead-acid, flow, and nickel-cadmium batteries. All of these batteries work due to a chemical reaction that occurs when solar energy is pumped into them. This process allows the components in the battery to effectively store the energy that can later be discharged for use.