Although it is possible to gather energy from nature through wind and solar power systems, storing that energy has, until now, been problematic. If we are not able to utilize energy on days when the sun doesn’t shine, well then you can stick renewable energy where the sun… you get the idea.
Thus far, we have had to rely on the lead acid battery; a temperamental child of dubious merit. Lead acid batteries (like the ones that start your car) have high internal resistance, sensitivity to cold temperatures and a moderate self-discharge rate. Damaged lead batteries pose an environmental risk in the form of hazardous waste. To extend the life of lead acid batteries, you should only ever utilize about 10% of the battery’s potential. This means that the storage of massive amounts of energy requires an equally massive amount of space. So much space, in fact, that electricity companies couldn’t be bothered. They operate on the premise that they can predict the amount of electricity a population will need and aim to produce just that. Massive excesses of energy are discharged into the ground. I kid you not. Japan estimates that it can reduce its energy production by 1/3 if excess energy can be stored.
Lead acid batteries, utilized by off grid installations, did little to bolster use of these systems as they were not very efficient, unable to retain a charge for extended periods, and needed to be ventilated as they emit hydrogen gas. Welcome to the world of the Silicone battery. These puppies have radically increased battery capacities and are able to operate in extreme temperatures (-50°C to +70°C) and up to 6,000 m below sea level. Mind blowing? Then buckle up because there’s a lot more where that came from:
- Storage capacity is 1.75 times better than international standards.
- They have a high current recharge and they exceed international recharge acceptance capacity standards by 2.98 times.
- High current discharge at 30°C can be achieved in 8 seconds without damage to the battery.
- The batteries have a longer lifespan when working at normal conditions; 4 – 10 years as opposed to the 2 years of lead acid batteries.
- You can recharge the batteries over 400 times; double the number for lead acid batteries.
- Silicone batteries have no recharge memory.
- They do not emit acid during discharge nor do they produce electrolyte pollution.
- No landfill for silicone batteries – electrolytes can be utilized as fertilizer and the components are also recyclable.
- Silicone batteries not only solve the problems of home PV systems, but improve the performance of portable solar generator systems.
The Grandaddy of Batteries
More mind blowing, pant wetting options will avail themselves. Future, thy name is Vanadium. This amazing breakthrough in battery technology is made of (you guessed it) liquid Vanadium cells. They can store energy indefinitely and can be charged/discharged over 10,000 cycles. They can be charged and discharged simultaneously. They do not loose charge and have zero emissions. The Japanese are already employing these beauties to store the aforementioned excess energy and the Canadians have agreed that the technology is viable. This will leave our earth a little greener and ensure that you can play Xbox until the cows come home, with nary a glimmer of guilt.
No need to feel guilty about destroying Santa’s natural habitat with your resplendent Christmas light extravaganza. This year, you can reduce the melting of polar ice and get yourself off the naughty list by solarising your Christmas lights.
Search online or at some hardware stores for a 60 watt solar panel kit and a renewable energy battery. This will cost between $500 and $650 depending on the quality of the panel. Set up the panel on your roof or in your garden where it will receive the most sunlight. Connect the panel to the charge controller, which regulates output. Connect the charge controller to the battery which should be placed in a sheltered area, like your garage or pool house. Plug your Christmas lights directly into the inverter. Wait for the batteries to be completely charged before flipping the switch. Incandescent lights use up to 30% more energy, so switch to LED and save. You can also purchase solar lights, but installing your own panel will mean that you can solarise your outside lighting all year round and recover the initial costs in no time at all.
When Regan removed the solar panels that Carter had installed on the White House roof, he sent a clear message – that solar had not come of age. If you are making a substantial investment in your home or business, you need to consider your options carefully and, while you are considering, we thought we might enlighten you by dispelling some urban legends about solar power systems so that you can make the right decision. This week at SolarLine we are busting myths and taking names. Be prepared to be educated…
Myth #1—Solar is too expensive
WRONG! It does take some initial investment, but most homeowners make back their initial investment within the first five years and can then look forward to a 15% or more return on their investment annually. If you live in Ontario, you can take advantage of the microFIT program currently on offer from the government and make a profit from your solar panels.
Solar installations have seen a dramatic decrease in costs over the last decade. This is thanks to a greater demand and more efficient technology. There are several firms who operate locally, making installation less costly. If you don’t have the capital, you can always get financing from your bank or through your solar installer.
Some people think that it is better to wait for the technology to advance and for solar to become cheaper. You can say that about every technology, but waiting will mean that you miss out on current government incentives. Look at the chart for a better idea of the return you will receive on your initial investment.
Myth #2—More power is used to manufacture and transport solar panels than the panel will produce in its lifetime
NOPE! A National Renewable Energy Laboratory report shows that the cost of producing a panel will be recovered in 1 – 4 years and, since most solar panels last for 30 years, they will make far more energy than they used. The idea that panels will one day clog landfills is also unlikely as 90% of material used to manufacture them is recyclable. A PV system that meets the needs of an average household prevents 1 ton of sulphur dioxide and about 12 000 lbs of nitrogen from polluting our atmosphere. Most pollutants produced during the manufacture of solar panels are recycled resulting in pollution that is minimal at best.
Myth# 3—Solar panels only work when the sun shines.
MISTAKE! Solar is not just a fair-weather friend; energy storage ensures that the lights stay on even when the sun isn’t shining. Advances in battery technology mean that power is guaranteed for much longer than you probably thought possible. Solar is reliable, and residents will not have to suffer through power cuts, especially in inclement weather. In fact, solar is so reliable that most highway signs, signals at railway crossings, lighthouses and navigational buoys are powered only by solar panels. Solar panels still produce energy on cloudy days – how much depends on cloud density. Most Ontario homeowners will still be connected to the grid. They supply the grid with their power at $0.80 kWh and pay a maximum of $0.09 kWh when using energy from it.
Myth #4—Solar doesn’t work in extreme temperatures
ERROR! Solar panels are actually better at producing power in cooler climes. Solar panels are very hardy and can withstand onslaughts from hail, wind, snow and sleet. Battery technology has improved remarkably and silicone batteries are able to withstand extreme temperatures from -50˚C to +70˚C. Germany is a great example of solar at work in colder climates – they have more than 2 million homes with solar panels! The cost of solar is also significantly less than costs associated with extending hydro poles to remote areas. A recent survey by the Solar Industries Association said 94% of people who owned solar water heaters considered them a wise investment.
This coming week, we’ve been asked to design & install a small off-grid solar array for a major Canadian corporation. It’s only a 1.5 kW system, and it will simply power a computer, monitor and maybe some LED lights. The system is meant more as a demonstration than a practical application. The idea is to show how easy it is to deploy renewable energy projects within their organization. Executives worldwide will tour their facility and adopt ideas from this centre. Anyway, we’re quite excited about the possibilities of a much larger endeavor. We’ll be posting our progress, along with a few pictures and video over the next few days.