While converting the suns energy to electricity has seen ever increasing scientific research and development over the years, from the early solar power development to the extremely impressive efficiency figures now being displayed by next generation solar panels there still remains one area that persists to be troublesome to scientific institutes. That is how to utilise all of the solar energy that you generate economically; it now appears huge leaps forward within the sector could be on the horizon.
While in the UK and the US alike there are provisions in place to deal with reimbursement of unused solar power (in the UK the export tariff, in the US net-metering) it is fair to say that many consumers whether domestic or commercial would be open to ways to actively utilise all of their generated electricity. Greater energy storage and transportation within the renewable sector is a field that has increasingly grown in research and development over the last few years with many private and educational institutes pouring millions into researching the technology. The undeniable benefit for both the consumer and the energy company alike should the large scale adoption of the technology really take off in the coming years is substantial, both in terms of longterm monetary savings for the end user but also the likely event up upsurge sin solar adoption.
At present while there has been no clear breakthrough with adoption figures for solar power storage units there are systems such as the “Midnight Sun”, one of the leaders in the UK it is the pricing factors of the units which has thus far been preventing large scale adoption. Like wise globally it is the pricing of the units which in many cases can be just as much as the domestic solar panel installation itself. It is factors such as this that has prevented consumers from purchasing the solar storage units and many solar wholesale/ resellers from not offering the units as part of an installation.
A Promising Solar Storage Future
The main issue that has thus far in the past stopped a real genuine upsurge in adoption from a consumer point of view is as stated above been down to price; however from a technology point of view the main drawback has been to produce a battery system that is efficient, robust and cost effective enough to be produced in volume that can deal with the demands that are placed on it. Thus far there have been numerous attempts to champion previous battery breakthroughs in the last few years to deal with this issue:
– Flow batteries: largely used in Asia, in particular Japan they store backup power on an industrial scale for many commercial plants. With the main difference to these batteries being how the energy is stored; with conventional batteries storing the energy in a chemical form but with a flow battery it actually pushes the energy into storage tanks allowing for further charge to be harnessed to push again more energy in to the tanks ready to pumped back to into the active area of the battery when needed.
– Lithium ion battery: used by many household and smart devices today the Lithium-ion battery due to its high energy density and its rechargeable efficiency has long been acknowledged as one of the potential key elements in being able to produce effect solar storage devices. The main area that has stopped this thus far has been the cost with them being up to 10 times more expensive than a conventional lead battery. However trials have begun to utilise the batteries in storage facilities with AES conducting a comprehensive trial in a Californian utility plant.
– Lithium Metal-air battery: while being judged as one for the future this technology has been widely adopted for testing by IBM. What makes these batteries so special is that they provide 10 times more efficiency than even the best Lithium batteries and as such the potential they could provide to solar power storage market could be vast. The batteries proficiency comes from their ability to draw oxygen from the air thus eliminating the need for certain conventional charging elements. As with any emerging tech there are drawbacks, obviously cost but also the R & D time expected to have the batteries commercial operational being estimated at 5-10 years, this is mainly down to the safety aspects relating to these forms of batteries. As such deeming Lithium Metal-air battery as one for the future.
Could Tesla Provide The Answer To Solar Power Storage
Well as mentioned in the list above Tesla Motors believe they have overcome the obstacles that have thus far deemed Lithium-ion batteries un economical for solar storage devices. The company are planning to bring to market storage devices both domestically and commercially. The system know as the Power Wall is based on a proven storage system being actively used in a model of the Tesla range and will come domestically in either a 7KW or 10KW versions. This marks an interesting new field for the company who had previously been seen as a market leader in the field of electric cars and as such it is hoped this can now be the case for renewable home energy storage.
How Affordable Is the Power Wall
Well given that thus far solar storage systems have been deemed to pricey the Tesla company has looked to dispel any fears of this with domestic units starting from only $3,500, with the company describing their key focus throughout this market shift being “to produce a super efficient battery affordably”. Tesla have also stated that they will be providing the systems internet connected so that they are able to monitor how their systems are performing. With the main barrier previously as stated being how to produce in volume Lithium-ion batteries this is an obstacle that Tesla have been able to address due to their substantial investment culminating in their soon to be complete 5 Billion dollar battery production facility.
What The Future Holds For Solar Storage
Given the barriers to entry into this field and their experience with battery storage Tesla are sure to become the market leader within this sector across the U.S. nationally and globally potentially in a short period of time. As such solar systems complete with storage facilities being sold in the UK and Europe could become the norm far sooner than previously thought. The interesting factor will be how many other companies will look to challenge them in the short and long term within the market both economically and also system efficiency. Likewise how many public institutes and private companies will now see solar panels more viable. The possibility of a completely off the grid domestic household maybe more attainable than ever previously possible given that this is just the starting point for Tesla within the solar power storage field and as expected improvements to the system in the coming years are only further likely to increase the proficiency of their systems.
Some previous related articles of interest:
How the UK is increasing it’s C02 savings
What Scotland is now saving through long term savings
The impact of decreasing oile prices on the renewable industry