Energy cannot be created but only transferred. This means that storing energy is maybe one of the greatest challenges mankind faces. Electrical energy is a form of energy that we can quantify and therefore we can measure how much is harvested, stored, transferred, and lost. In a typical electrical energy system, there are three main parts: production, storage, and usage.
Production of electrical energy is simply the transfer of one form of energy into electrical energy. Often times this energy comes from burning fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas. Energy can also be harvested from the sun to produce electrical energy. However, once electrical energy is produced, where does it go?
Most electrical energy produced in the modern world is sent onto the grid, which is a large-scale distribution network that sends electrical energy into homes and businesses to power our everyday lives. However, there is a significant portion of this energy that is spent to get the energy from one place to another. There is also a lot of energy wasted because while we are almost always producing electricity, it is not always being used, and there is no way to store it on a large scale.
Batteries have been used for over a century to store electrical energy to be used later for a variety of applications from transportation to communication and lighting. Storing electrical energy is hard but often the greatest losses happen when energy is moved. Battery efficiency is a measurement of how much energy is spent putting electrical energy into a battery and then extracting it out for use. Battery efficiency ranges from 20% to 98%, with everything in between.
Usage of electrical energy is extremely important when designing an electrical energy system. By making the usage of energy more efficient, consumers can reduce the size of both production and storage systems. However, energy efficiency is often overlooked when designing an energy system. This is the best place to start to make sure that the energy production and storage systems are not oversized for your application.
When looking at your energy system, remember to make the usage as efficient as possible before designing the energy production and storage systems. It is important that everything works together as a balanced SYSTEM. This will ensure that the least amount of energy is wasted, saving you money in the end.