Solar has overgrown its hype. The collapsing prices of installing photovoltaic panels, together with various incentives, has produced a boom in residential and business PV systems. However, the line of development isn’t a soaring incline. Solar capacity is undeniably growing, but the absolute capacity is quite below conventional generation.
What’s holding the progress back? Storage.
Conventional generation power plants can (for now) secure a continuous feed of fuel. They keep coal, gas and uranium isotopes coming in. That’s the precondition of having a commercial power plant.
But, as nature would have it, solar isn’t a constant and continuous source of energy, even though it is boundless. That’s the paradox. Clouds hide the sun or night falls.
To have a reliable electric grid the demand and supply have to be in balance, otherwise the voltage will fluctuate or worse.
Ways to overcome this problem are being explored. One option is to deal with the electricity grid itself. That’s what is meant under “smart” grids – these are trying to eliminate gaps in the supply and demand for electricity.
Another path is addressing the storage. Storage allows for excess generation which is above the natural rate to be captured and spread evenly throughout the day. Among others, lithium-ion batteries can achieve this effect.
So, that’s it then. Not really. There are problems with batteries. One of them is they are expensive, even though their cost is on the decline. The other is they wear with cycles because of the chemical reactions they work on. For that reason they can last up to around 5 years. And lastly, they are not environmentally friendly. Why try to harness solar energy if you are going to pollute the environment immensely along the way? Citi
Flywheel storage system is the most promising answer so far to the problem of storage. It’s essentially a mechanical battery, a rotating disc mounted on a shaft. It converts electricity in kinetic energy and stores it until it’s needed. When the demand for the stored energy arises, the flywheel slows down, converts the energy back into electrical and delivers it in a very fast response.
It’s also environmentally friendly and much more durable in comparison with lithium-ion batteries. And Quantum Energy Storage Corp’s flywheel design is also eco-friendly, as it’s made of recycled components that can be further recycled when the flywheel is taken apart.
Flywheel storage system’s ability to absorb shocks and provide energy injections is believed to be the best avenue to resolve the issue of intermittent solar energy supplies.