The need for energy sources is older than human history itself, but with the advent of electrically powered devices, modern transportation methods, and the explosion in human population, energy needs over the past century have skyrocketed into the stratosphere, and show few signs of slowing down anytime soon. Traditional energy sources – namely fossil fuels – have proven to be complexly and enormously problematic. This has led to recent innovations in the field of alternative energy. And out of all of these so called “alternative” energy sources, the sun has proven to be one of the most promising.
Referring to solar energy as alternative energy does seem odd in many ways, since the sun has always provided the earth with energy. However, for modern energy needs, harnessing the power of this nearby star has presented challenges, like in the arena of energy storage, for example. Nevertheless, recent technological advances have made the storage of solar power much more viable.
The Challenges of Solar Energy Storage
One of the primary issues with the storage of solar energy, and traditionally one of the factors that has held back innovations in the world of solar power, is the fact that the sun rarely shines in one spot for more than a few hours at a time. Geographically extreme areas like the north or south poles may get significant periods of uninterrupted sunshine, but most parts of the world have regular light and dark hours – not to mention weather issues.
Obviously, the need for electricity transcends daytime hours. This has been one of the reasons that more easily stored energy sources have been used primarily in the past. However, with unprecedented interest in alternative sources like solar power, there have been recent innovations in technology for storing the sun’s power for later use.
Using the Electrical Grid
The electrical grid is a huge part of modern infrastructure, and evidence of the grid – such as power transmission lines – can be seen in most developed areas. Since the purpose of this system is the transportation of power, and this transportation takes time, this is a kind of method of power storage for solar energy. However, it is not adequate for a system that runs completely on solar power.
Using Seasonal Thermal Energy Storage
Seasonal thermal energy storage is basically the storage of heat or cold for climate control purposes. This is an evolving field of technology with several different methods, but as a concept it does involve the storage of solar energy for later use.
Some of these energy storage methods include boreholes, as well as established caverns, and mines where heat from warm weather can be stored for future consumption. Tank systems have also proven to be effective.
While these methods are used for large scale thermal storage, smaller systems such as passive heat storage in the soil surrounding a building are becoming more common. The storage of solar energy in molten salts has been demonstrated to be efficient.
With these progressing technologies, solar power is becoming a much more viable option for effectual, year-round use.
This article was written by Nicole, a blogger who has spent many years researching and writing about solar energy, energy storage, and more green energy concepts.