The development of an adequate, cost effective way to store solar energy cannot come fast enough. Different methods are being used currently, and others are being experimented with and explored. Some home solar energy users have had great success with their systems, but solar systems may not be appropriate for all areas of the world, nor would they be good on a larger scale. If solar energy is to be the replacement for other less environmentally friendly energy sources, then there must be a way to store it on a larger scale that is still safe and affordable for everyone.
The Pros to Solar Energy Storage
Solar energy is renewable, non-polluting, and easy to harness for use. A new home that is built with solar panels or an existing home that adds them can qualify for a tax credit or other financial incentives. This makes the concept even more attractive. The current systems for solar energy storage include a photovoltaic system and a molten salt system, but each has drawbacks.
Solar power can be used to offset or replace electrical costs from the utility company. This, in turn, forces the utility company to become more competitive in their pricing. If one family in a neighborhood sets up solar panels and reduces their energy costs by half or more and the utility company increases the rates for the next door neighbors, it is not long before the next door neighbors are going to consider going to solar power as well.
Solar power is safer to use than other energy sources, especially those that rely on coal which must be mined from the earth and then transported around the country, or oil which is expensive and must be obtained from foreign countries. Harnessing the sun's heat may be the easiest way to store the energy for later use in solar thermal systems.
The Cons to Solar Energy Storage
The sun is not entirely predictable or reliable. Clouds can block the sun's rays for seconds, minutes, or even hours causing a storage system to lose megawatts of energy. The loss of megawatts can result in power loss for the users. If the system in place is not big enough to store enough energy for these times, it will not be useful in the long run.
The sun is not a good choice in certain parts of the world where the weather is generally cloudy and overcast. Even in places where there is a lot of sun, days of rain and clouds could shut down a system in a matter of hours.
The salt tank systems are adequate on a small scale. On a larger scale, they could face the same NIMBY protests that other types of energy plants face whenever a new one is proposed.
Solar panel systems can be expensive, especially at start up. A photovoltaic system that is large enough to run an entire household can cost $ 50,000 -far out of the reach of many budgets in these times.