The challenge with storing electricity made from solar panels with current battery technology is that you are not so much storing energy as you are moving a chemical reaction in one direction so that later you can reverse it to release electrons. This makes batteries heavy and short lived.
In a solar thermal system you can store the heat energy for short periods of time in very well insulated tanks and pipes. This heat can be used just to heat or in a heat engine to make electricity ( which must be used right away)
Electricity made from solar panels, leaves a lot to be desired and is of low efficiency largely because we can only use the light and not the heat of the sun, but only a fraction of the light frequencies can be converted to electricity.
In this Stanford TED talk, Will Chueh teases us with new research into making solar heat and light in liquid fuels such as ethanol, methanol, hydrogen or even synfuel using water or carbon dioxide. The whole cycle is carbon neutral.
This the future of solar energy storage.
Will Chueh is an assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department and a center fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford. Chueh received his master’s degree (2010) in applied physics and doctorate in materials science from the California Institute of Technology.
Prior to joining Stanford in 2012, he was a Distinguished Truman Fellow at Sandia National Laboratories. Chueh has received numerous honors, including the Caltech DemetriadesTsafka-Kokkalis Prize in Energy (2012), the Josephine de Karman Fellowship (2009) and the American Ceramics Society Diamond Award (2008). In 2012, he was named as one of the “top 35 innovators under the age of 35” by MIT Technology Review
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.