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Energy Storage Key to Solar Success

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While our amazing Sun outputs more energy in 1 minute than humans create in an entire year, capturing this energy is tricky business on the earth surfaces because our world is spinning on an axis, while also spinning about the Sun. The key solution to solar powers intermittent nature is energy storage technology.

Photo (C) 2015  Tesla Motors
The market inertia that Tesla's Musk has created about the Power Wall and Power Pack will go a long way towards ushering in an era of widespread grid power battery energy storage solutions based on mature but someone dangerous and fragile LiNMC batteries, the same type used in the Model S, and that Tesla Motors is going to crank out by the billions at their now under construction in Nevada, Gigafactory 1.

New clean technology energy storage system will allow solar to perform 24/7 power output as system, enabling renewable energy to compete directly against convention hydro, geothermal, nuclear, natural gas, and oil power plant technologies.

Energy storage technology offers the same 24/7 output improvements in the wind power sector. Wind power energy production system suffers from a random intermittent output pattern that can be corrected with battery energy storage systems.

Tesla Motors' famous CEO Elon Musk explains the energy storage breakthroughs needed to bring Solar and Wind into the forefront of the Energy Sector, you can see the action through a video that launched on youtube alongside the announcement of the Power Wall and Power Pack energy storage systems.

The Ivanpah Solar Thermal Power Plant
Solar Thermal Massive Energy

Grid centralized Solar Thermal energy, like the one deployed at the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, uses heat energy storage to provide 24/7 power output, at the huge scale of a grid interconnected power plant like a large hydroelectric dam. With solar thermal energy production the sun strikes a large array of mirrors that focus the light on a tower with a heat exchanger that uses the concentrated heat light to heat a working fluid. The heated fluid is used to produce power that drives turbine energy generators. At a basic level, solar thermal is still spinning coils of wires mechanically to make energy, this is an advantage in that we have perfecting this technology at very high power levels with high reliability over many generations of conventional power plant designs. This works great for large installations, but normal commercial and residential roof tops do not have enough space for this kind of power production technology. Rooftop solar power is better suited for water heating. There is an intelligent way to make power on the roofs of most buildings, similar to the way that plant leaves work, to turn the sunlight directly into useful electrical power.

Solar thermal is cool for gigantic grid scale power plant installations capable of competing against conventional centralized grid power production technologies like coal, natural gas and nuclear.h Thermal energy storage allows the primary heat loop to accumulate solar thermal energy as thermal mass in an insulated container thermos system, using the stored heat to produce continuous power output with 24/7 reliability even when clouds obscure the sunlight from the mirrors. On your roof top you can use solar thermal to provide hot water for your home, business or municipal building. Turning light into warm water and steam directly at your home reduces the load on your primary water heater, hybridized systems with roof top solar water heating and tank based hight efficient heat pump optimized storage are able to provide lower net carbon emissions systems that are cheap to own and operator. You pay more upfront for solar how water, but save on energy costs because the sun is doing the hard work. By investing an a more intelligent solar water energy heating system, you can enjoy a life of lower home energy costs. Water heating is a significant energetic activity in a home. If the sun can do the hard work for hot water, you can use a smaller photovoltaic system for HVAC and electrical loads.

A Nice Roof Top Solar PV Panel Array: Image via
Roof Top Solar Energy

Solar photovoltaic systems are ideal for rooftop solar power systems, the panels forming an active energy producing barrier that improves the roofs lifetime. In some instances the solar panels can be used to produce useful shade, for example at the Tesla Super Chargers. Shade is useful because it reduces energy consumption in HVAC systems, like the air conditioning system in the Tesla Model S, or the HVAC load of a building. Creative shading technology can reduce a buildings total net lifetime energy consumption by mitigating solar thermal loading that electrically bogs down your electrical HVAC systems. On small, medium and large commercial buildings, industrial buildings, the roofs of stadiums, schools and government buildings, roof top solar is possible on almost all buildings. Distributed rooftop solar power gives the grid redundancy, adds a layer of energy security to the grid, and enables the replacement of dirty finite carbon energy with clean sustainable solar energy.

International Space Station CIGS Solar Array
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A Brief History

The solar power technologies we enjoy today are the outcome of clean technologies developed in the 1950's for aerospace power applications, satellites, space probes and space telescopes. In these high performance applications, thin film folding CIGS cells of more than 30% efficiency are used to power the electrical system of computerized devices in outer space. High above the weather, panels on spacecraft can get more of the suns power every day. This makes high energy digital computer satellites systems like the Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station possible without resorting to the use of expensive difficult nuclear batteries. Custom made Thermoelectric nuclear batteries exist for space probes, and objects that are sent into space away from the sun, to places where less solar power is available. Strontium 90 is popular nuclear core material for the Thermocouple DC Radio Thermal Generators (RTG) that are common in aerospace applications where solar technology works poorly. There are thermal applications for nuclear batteries as well. On the Curiosity Rover, small nuclear heat cores are used to keep the robot warm, the decay heat of small rods of radioactive metals providing the heat to prevent components from freezing. A large RTG unit in the rear functions as the DC energy generator systems. A large bespoke nuclear material at the center of the RTG radiates heat, a thermocouple based on Lead Telluride, converts the temperature difference between the hot core and the freezing weather cooled heat fins into DC power. As the RTG ages, its core cools off, and the power output gradually decreases.

Laser Doping P Type Surface Silicon Solar Cell Production
Developing long lasting materials that convert the suns photons into useful electricity was the goal of material science developments that branched off of semi-conductor materials science research that went into early transistor manufacturing and integrated circuit production. These wafers of silicon are doped with materials that crate a band gap, an atomic feature that enables the conversion of certain frequencies of light into direct current, the same kind of current that chemical batteries produce. This makes solar photovoltaic an ideal partner with chemical battery energy storage systems.

Distribution Cost DC vs AC 
DC vs AC

Edison was a strong proponent of DC power, but Tesla's AC system ultimate won the battle of the currents because AC is easier to step up and transmit long distances. Modern HVDC technologies allow for super high voltage DC grid connections that can also transmit power over large distances, and this is usually used for inter-grid phase synchronization, a technology that allows energy balancing and sharing between different grid systems. The same technologies that allow for MOSFET car stereo systems are used in high power format to invert low voltage DC to very high voltage for long distance transmission. High voltage is important because it allows for the use of a smaller wire. To give an example. If we wanted to send 1MW of power in DC though a cable at 1V, the cable would have to be able to carry 1 million amps, and would be too thick, heavy and expensive for practical commercial applications. Conversely, power is send at HVDC because you can carry the same 1MW of DC power over a 1 million volt line at 1amp, allowing for the use of lower cost practical distribution wire and substation systems.

Both Currents Won ^^

We live in an era where DC or AC can be used for high power applications, but our digital world is almost entirely DC. The LED lighting of today is fundamentally optimized for DC. The computers, phones, tablets, thin screen TV's, game console, medical equipment, and servers of the internet are all DC powered. Power supplies that convert AC to DC are ubiquitous today because the grid is AC but most of the stuff we plug into the grid use DC.

The 2015 Tesla Model S P85D
The DC nature of solar power and compact low cost energy storage system creates an ideal technological synergy, the hybridization of two technologies produce a system that is greater than sum of the power of each component separately. That is not to say that batteries are not powerful, some of the fastest vehicles in the world today, like the Tesla Model S P85D, rely on lightweight high energy and high power battery energy storage systems.

The battery sector is a huge part of advanced economies. The average home in America has more than 40 battery sizes, from wrist watches to wall clocks and AV remotes, to cells phones, motorcycles, boats, ATV, Jet Skis, any anything with an electric start. Without a battery, your cars engine would have to be bump started or manually cranked over, something that was really dangerous back when early engines required manual cranking to start. Early gas engines had low compression, loose designs that were dirty and inefficient, something that you could kick start if the engine was small enough. Many motorcycles sold up until very recently came with a backup kick start mechanism, a legacy technology that carried over from the era before electric vehicle starting.

Early vehicles were DC battery electric, but the gas powered engine was faster. The higher speeds or gas power vehicle enabled time savings that increased profit margins in many sectors. This provided an economic force behind the ongoing developed and commercial production of hydrocarbon burning internal combustion engines. Modern gas powered engines cannot be started with a foot crank, but they produce way more power and are far cleaner burning. Some modern vehicles even burn the super clean CNG fuel, like the Natural Gas Honda Civic. Today, high performance electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S, take the DC power from the energy storage battery and invert it to polyphase AC to drive the powerful traction motors. AC motors are more efficient, have greater torque across a wider range of operating speeds, have greater power density, and enable efficient power generation when the drive-train is able to capture energy from the vehicles inertia, when going down hills or when slowing down. Toyota's hybrid synergy drive technology similarly makes use of DC battery energy storage with inverter/ chargers and AC traction motors/ generators.

Adventure Solar Energy

Solar technology has enjoyed a useful niche in remote power applications since its inception. Scientists all over the world use solar power system in remote areas that do not have electrical grids. The oil and gas sector, often operating in very remote sections of the earth, was one of and continues to be a large user of bespoke solar energy system solutions where the use case performance outweighs the upfront costs of such systems. Meg and I own three small expensive solar power systems.

The smallest is a $155 Orange Joos 3w Mono 5400mah LiPo with Micro USB output to a special charging adapter cable, which can charge most common devices with connection adapters for devices like the iPhone 4, iPhone 5 and iPhone 6, iPads, most Android micro-usb phones like the Galaxy S3, S4, S5, S6 or Note, Note 2, Note 3, or Note 4. It collects enough power in one day of mostly full sun exposure to run an iPhone 5 under a modest phone use case for 1 day with most of the antennas and systems of the phone active. It is waterproof, rugged, and at 2.2lbs fairly lightweight.

Our second system is a 5w mono panel with integrated charge controller that works with a small SLA 12-9F2 battery. We keep that one in the Prius for backup purposes.

Our largest systems is a 20W mono panel facing east in our window. It is connected to a 10amp charge controller and a 420WH SLI35C battery. This stationary system has the greatest net output, is always online, and works better in the summer than the winter because of the shading geometry of the roof of our building, we live on the top floor with a unit that faces east into a court yard. The upper level across from us creates a partial shade barrier that blocks low winter sun from our window for parts or most of the morning. This gives our system seasonal performance that peaks in the summer and declines through the winter, typical of most roof top systems.

The battery energy storage in our 3 solar systems gives them useful operation. Without energy storage, solar power is handicapped. Speaking of solar battery energy storage systems, a friend of mine introduces me to the aspect solar gear the other day. My father is law is fan of the stuff produced by Goal Zero.

Cool portable solar LiFePo4 Gear :

Goal Zero solar gear

Rooftop solar power has become more affordable than ever. You can wrap the cost of solar energy roof into your mortgage or building financing, to maximize the cost performance of your system over time. This will allow you to get a more powerful solar system for your home or business. This kind of system can provide partial or total energy to a normal home, for HVAC, Hot Water, Lighting and Power, especially when they are combined with an energy storage system. The real advantage of these solar systems is their ability to function when the power power grids are offline. This gives the operators of solar roofs energy security. Clean solar energy technology provides superb long term cost performance, low total cost of ownership, and represents an investment into the future of clean distributed secure and sustainable energy technology.

If you are interested in a solar energy system for your home, business or municipal building, do your self a favor and contact GC Solar. This firm has extensive experience with modern roof top solar systems.

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