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Solar Power

Now days solar seems to be the mainstay of the alternative energy industry and in fact the cost of solar power has come down. The panels are more efficient and less toxic. In case you didn't know it the film they put on solar panels is one of the most toxic chemicals there is. In any case solar is here to stay. Unfortunatley, even though the cost of the panels is down the installation cost are still high. It is a limited field with the installers being few and far between and able to demand a high price for their services.

The Federal Government has put a plan in place to help cover these soft costs. These cost are being offset by the federal government energy department

Installation is a very specific and tightly controlled market, permitting is expensive and zoning for systems is tightly regulated. In reality the big energy companies don't want you putting your own energy back into the grid. Additional costs are encountered when you try to hook to the grid and have to get additional permitting to do that. Currently 38 states require energy companies to buy back the energy these small systems produce.

Hybrid Wind and Solar Systems

Wind by itself is usually not a consistent power supplier and solar by itself is not a constant supplier of energy. That is unless you can afford huge wind or solar farms. For the average person or business this is not realistic. So enters the hybrid system.

Let's Combine The Two

In much of the United States, wind speeds are low in the summer when the sun shines brightest and longest. The wind is strong in the winter when less sunlight is available. Because the peak operating times for wind and solar systems occur at different times of the day and year, hybrid systems are more likely to produce power when you need it.

Most hybrid systems are off the grid and operate independent from the electrical grid. They usually have a battery storage system and/or a generator to provide consistent power for the user.

Welcome to the new age of solar power. Concentrated solar power can provide "on demand" energy by heating salt and utilizing thermal storage. Giving solar the power to be used whether the sun is shining or the moon is up.

On Demand Solar Energy

On demand solar energy is accomplished by using salt power. Thats right salt power. Salt is heated and turned molten and the result is enough heat to turn water into steam and that steam turns turbines.

Heat To Make Ice

Several applications are being developed where ice is produced during off-peak periods and used for cooling at a later time. For example, air conditioning can be provided more economically by using low-cost electricity at night to freeze water into ice, then using the cooling capacity of ice in the afternoon to reduce the electricity needed to handle air conditioning demands. Thermal energy storage using ice makes use of the large heat of fusion of water. Historically, ice was transported from mountains to cities for use as a coolant. One metric ton of water (= one cubic meter) can store 334 million joules (MJ) or 317,000 BTUs (93kWh). A relatively small storage facility can hold enough ice to cool a large building for a day or a week.

In addition to using ice in direct cooling applications, it is also being used in heat pump based heating systems. In these applications, the phase change energy provides a very significant layer of thermal capacity that is near the bottom range of temperature that water source heat pumps can operate in. This allows the system to ride out the heaviest heating load conditions and extends the time frame by which the source energy elements can contribute heat back into the system.

Salt Hydrate Technology

One example of an experimental storage system based on chemical reaction energy is the salt hydrate technology. The system uses the reaction energy created when salts are hydrated or dehydrated. It works by storing heat in a container containing 50% sodium hydroxide (NaOH) solution. Heat (e.g. from using a solar collector) is stored by evaporating the water in an endothermic reaction. When water is added again, heat is released in an exothermic reaction at 50 °C (120 °F). Current systems operate at 60% efficiency. The system is especially advantageous for seasonal thermal energy storage, because the dried salt can be stored at room temperature for prolonged times, without energy loss. The containers with the dehydrated salt can even be transported to a different location. The system has a higher energy density than heat stored in water and the capacity of the system can be designed to store energy from a few months to years.

In 2013 the Dutch technology developer TNO presented the results of the MERITS project to store heat in a salt container. The heat, which can be derived from a solar collector on a rooftop, expels the water contained in the salt. When the water is added again, the heat is released, with almost no energy losses. A container with a few cubic meters of salt could store enough of this thermo-chemical energy to heat a house throughout the winter. In a temperate climate like that of the Netherlands, an average low-energy household requires about 6.7 GJ/winter. To store this energy in water (at a temperature difference of 70 °C), 23 m3 insulated water storage would be needed, exceeding the storage abilities of most households. Using salt hydrate technology with a storage density of about 1 GJ/m3, 4–8 m3 could be sufficient.

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