With the world’s energy needs growing day by day, it’s about time to store the free, safe, clean and abundant solar energy you find everywhere. Solar energy provides about 1000 watts of power per square meter of Earth’s surface it hits on a sunny day.
Moreover, did you know that the total solar energy that reaches earth in two hours can provide for entire world’s energy consumption if stored and harnessed properly? This is why it’s important to know how to store energy from the sun.
Using solar cells
The first thing that comes to mind is storing solar energy in solar cells or photovoltaics. They are non-polluting and long-lasting devices which convert about 10-15% of solar energy into usable energy.
Another means of getting electricity from solar energy is by intensely focusing sunlight into a small area using mirrors or lenses to heat water and create steam. This high-pressure steam generates electricity when passed through a turbine.
The electricity generated by solar cells and steam-driven turbines can be stored in batteries or supercapacitors to be used when cloudy or at night. It’s also possible to store the thermal energy of sunlight in the heat capacity of molten salt at high temperatures. Heat is transferred from the molten salt to water using a heat exchanger to generate steam and drive a turbine when electricity is needed.
It’s also possible to harness and store solar energy by using sunlight to produce fuels. For example, it’s possible to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using a photoelectrochemical cell and sunlight. The gases are later recombined to generate electricity in a fuel cell.
Of course, sunlight can also directly heat a tank of water placed outside the house and this heated water can be used for showering and bathing. This is quite common in developing countries.
And … you can also use solar energy directly as we show in the solar hot dog cooker project too!
Here are some other fun ways to generate power to do some fun things …