Home Energy Storage Systems
You might be asking, “What’s the holdup on clean energy for homes?” While solar and wind have their issues – wind can’t be black-started (it requires a secondary energy source for initial startup) and solar has a substantial night-time blind spot in generation – they’re both effective and extremely clean systems of energy generation. So why haven’t we shifted to replacing all power plants to these effective strategies.
The answer your looking for is in the idea of energy storage.
Both of these systems would work, supplemented by each other and hydroelectric power of course, if only we could store the excess energy. In every part of modern life, part of ensuring a steady supply is making sure that there’s a reserve waiting to be used in leaner times. We’ve done this with resources like agriculture for most of recorded human history, but storing energy long-term continues to be barely out of reach.
Of course, we’ve unlocked how burning coal and oil generates heat. Heat generates steam, which can turn a turbine to generate electricity. So our current major power sources unlock heat potential that’s stored in other elements to power our homes. The question becomes: How do we store more renewable energy in an easily accessible way?
Utility companies and power distribution grids help to offset sudden electrical needs with large-scale batteries. Unfortunately, these systems are not feasible for installation in homes. Many of them require large infrastructures or heavy cooling and heat dissipation systems. Some are designed around using existing energy to pump a storage medium (say water) to a point where gravity can be used as potential energy to start a turbine (releasing the stored water to spin the turbine and generate electricity).
We do have one potential storage system working its way towards the modern homeowner: lithium batteries. The ongoing struggle to build an affordable electric vehicle has included many advances in large-size batteries. While driving a car 200 miles won’t power a home for very long (especially if you’re running an electric furnace, air conditioner, or heat pump), it’s a start. The electric automotive industry, helped substantially by the photovoltaic (solar) power boom, has primed the market for energy storage installation solutions for homes.
Of course, developing interconnected homes, where distributed solar panels and batteries are installed across multiple homes has the potential to support a community during outages. After all, each battery only needs to be able to support a home for a couple of days at a time. There will be at least some sunlight that filters through to charge, even during stormy weeks. By maximizing the number of solar collectors throughout a community it could save residents on energy costs. The same is true for an interconnected system of battery storage. The future is looking bright, and it’s because the lights are being powered by the sun!
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