Introduction Thermal Energy Storage
What is Thermal Energy Storage?
Thermal energy storage is one of the greatest inventions that engineers have invented. Thermal energy storage systems are widely used in various applications whether for industrial purposes or for such simple applications as heating up a house or building during winter times. Thermal energy storage is simply the storing of thermal energy or “heat” in various items, objects and containers and having the ability to access the stored thermal energy for hours, days, or even months depending on the technology. Below describes some of the various types of thermal energy storage systems.
Types of Thermal Energy Storage:
Types of Thermal Energy Storage
There different ways of storing heat and here are the main technologies for storing thermal energy:
SOLAR ENERGY STORAGE
solar energy storage is the technique of storing sun’s thermal energy or heat in batteries using solar panels and some other component. The way solar energy storing systems works is as follows:
- Solar panels are mounted on the roof of a house or building, and the panels collect energy from the sun and convert it into electricity.
- The generated electricity is then converted by an inverter into the electricity to power a home or an entire building depending on how much electricity is collected by the solar panels.
- In many cases, the solar energy system is connected to the mains gridline. If the energy collected by the solar panels is more than the amount of energy needed by the building, the excess amount of electricity is transmitted to the gridline and thus receives its credit on the electricity bill.
- The energy collected by the solar panels can be stored in batteries, the higher the capacity of batteries, the more energy can be stored in them. The energy collected in those batteries can be later used in order to heat up the building or used for other usages.
MOLTEN SALT ENERGY STORAGE
Molten salt energy storage is considered to be an innovative way of storing more energy than regular thermal energy storage systems.
The energy produced by steam turbine plants is almost 80 percent of the entire system. The Molten salt is put in a tank and then pumped up into a tower. The tower is surrounded by huge fields of specially arranged mirrors which are called heliostats. The heliostats mirrors focus up the heat energy on a heat exchanger that sits on top of the high tower which will cause the heating of the molten salt to such temperature as 500 degrees Fahrenheit up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The molten salt is then stored in a large tank which can be utilized later for energy generation. The Heliostat mirrors are automatically controlled by computers in order to follow the sun direction and focus the reflected sunbeam on the top of the tower.
THERMO-CHEMICAL ENERGY STORAGE
A thermo-chemical energy storage system can be a solution for making heat and thermal energy available when needed. It is a system composed of water and zeolite. Zeolite is a mineral sponge and is capable of storing up to four times more heat than water. It is extremely porous and every gram of it has a surface area of over 10,000 ft2. To charge a Zeolite “battery”, all needed is to add heat. This allows the mineral to absorb large amounts of water through molecular binding, which releases heat energy. This relatively new heat storage system can be used for three main purposes: heating, cooling and even drying.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Thermal Energy Storage
Benefits of Thermal Energy Storage
There are many advantages and benefits for using thermal energy storage technology such as:
- Cost Saving: it is much cheaper to use thermal energy storage systems such as solar energy storage rather than using the regular electricity provided by the mains gridline. It could even be used in a combination of both; i.e., a hybrid solution using both the mains utility and the energy generated from the thermal energy storage system.
- Money Generating: Molten Salt thermal energy storage system can be extremely profitable if managed and built properly.
- Storage: Thermal Energy storage systems allow a building to store huge amounts of electricity and heat that could be used and utilized in case of an emergency or when there is an outage of power.
- Easy Accessibility: most countries have good access to electricity thanks to electricity grids; however, in some cases, especially in third world countries where the infrastructure is almost none existing, having access to electricity and heat can be extremely challenging. In these areas, using solar panel systems can be extremely helpful because they do not require access to the mains utility.
Drawbacks of Thermal Energy Storage
Even though thermal energy storage systems can be extremely beneficial, it does not make them immune to having their own share of drawbacks and challenges. Some of these challenges include the followings.
- The heat generated in summer and warm days may be wasted.
- During cloudy days or in places and seasons where nights are longer than days, solar system panels can be almost inefficient.
- Some heat storage systems can be cheap to build; however, their efficiency can be as low as 56% and on top of that the maintenance cost can be problematic.
- Some buildings such as apartments do not have enough space for installing such a heat storing system as chillers or molten salt energy storage system.
In conclusion, thermal energy storage systems are extremely beneficial and can be implemented in almost every single building to save money, lower the cost of electricity consumption, store energy for emergency situations, and even make money if you look at it from a business perspective