Solar energy is one of the most accessible and widespread forms of renewable energy, and for a good reason – most houses can utilise solar to cut their electricity bills. While you’ll benefit from incorporating solar in your home, knowledge is power, and solar storage is one aspect that takes your solar to the next level! What are the different ways to store solar, you ask? Well, let’s have a look.
Storing your solar energy on the grid.
This, frankly, isn’t a form of storage, but it pays to highlight it here as it’s an option many Australian’s unwittingly subscribe to every year – hampering their solar benefits. When the sun is out, your panels generate power that’s filtered through the inverter and used for electricity in your home. In the event of generating more energy than you need, you send that energy back to the grid. In the initial rise of solar, users were being paid reasonably well for ‘selling’ their excess power back to the grid. This was an essential part of a bizarre process as they would then use that money to pay for energy off the grid at night or when the sun disappeared.
Now, however, this remuneration has drastically dropped, and there’s even been incredulous talk of solar owners being charged to push their energy onto the grid (although fortunately, there’s been push-back). This is not proper storage; a large attraction of using solar is the independence, and having an effective and efficient way of storing your generated power increases this self-reliance. You’re still reliant on the grid if that’s the place you ‘store’ your excess electricity. Blackouts in your area? You’re left in the dark.
Storing your solar energy with thermal storage.
It’s possible to store energy generated from the sun in thermal storage – a medium that holds the heat from that warm star we circle (in water or molten salt). It’s contained in insulated tanks until called upon. You’ve probably already surmised that this is not a method that’s suited to individual households – it’s performed on a large scale in powerplants. So while thermal technology is available for energy capture and distribution, it’s unlikely to be the source you use to switch on your kitchen light.
Hydrogen is a way to store solar.
Hydrogen is also a storage system that tends to be industrial. The sun’s rays are stored in the form of hydrogen gas. For a solar plant, it’s possible to generate electricity through solar PV systems and run electrolysers to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. It’s then converted to energy as heat and electricity. But, once again, the process is on a large scale and isn’t an adaptable or appropriate method of solar for the typical household.
The best way to store solar is with batteries.
These two previous sources reinforce why solar batteries have quickly become a mainstay – and necessity – of solar. Solar batteries give you the power, and there’s never been a smarter time to ensure your panels are partnered with a battery, as designs are getting smaller, while their capabilities are getting larger. With the right kind of storage, you can power your home at night and render blackouts a thing of the past.
There are a handful of different types of solar batteries – lithium-ion, hydrogen, lead-acid, flow and sodium nickel chloride – so you’ll be faced with another choice. This is a topic for another time but for our purposes now, batteries, no matter the type, are the safest, most efficient, accessible, and reliable way to store your solar energy.
The future of energy is virtual power plants.
In the near future, users in Western Australia will benefit from being part of a virtual power plant (VPP). We've written an entire blog on VPPs, so for an expanded explanation, give it a read. In essence, they are a healthy grid system, with the excess energy you’ve generated (when your battery is full) being distributed to others on the VPP who are in need, with you benefiting from other VPP users’ electricity when you’re in need. It’s a collaborative, renewable community – a way for all of us to maximise our sustainable systems.
Plico is helping Western Australians get solar + battery systems without the big upfront costs.
The upfront costs of batteries and installation can be the defining hurdle in preventing people from switching to solar. To combat this, Plico is breaking the solar mould, with members getting solar panels, an inverter and a battery for no big upfront costs, for as little as $36.90 a week. We even maintain your system for you, as members get ten years of ongoing maintenance and support.
Solar batteries are the best way to store your generated energy, and as a Plico member, it’s never been easier to make the switch to solar. So have a chat with one of the friendly Plico team to see if a Plico solar + battery system would work in your home.