In the picture below, have a look at the proposed situation Mars-One has in mind setting up its base.
One sees a lot of solar panels in front of the base itself. The conclusion everyone makes is that the living conditions on Mars depend on (solar) energy. It is completely correct to state that no life on Mars is sustainable without electric energy.
Energy is needed to heat the settlement, to keep up the air pressure, to supply power for the lights, to supply the power for the oxygen to breath, to cook, to communicate, and last but not least to store energy when the sun is not shining on the solar panels like you have in the evening or when sand storms cover the panels.
In fact the situation above is similar to any space lab or rocket traveling through space only with much more solar panels. Much more, because on a planet solar energy very much depends on its environment, where you don’t have that problem in space. I presume these extra panels need to secure the sources out of which energy can be created when the panels don’t supply energy. Like total darkness.
A source that can keep energy are numerous batteries. However, these are heavy and not long lasting. Useful for minor, low voltage back-ups, like cellulair instruments . The mayor source of obtaining energy during the evening is the accumulation of hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis during daytime. These gasses are stored in tanks. During the evening the interaction of these gasses by means of a fuel-cell will supply the electrical energy needed. How the fuel cell works I explained a year ago here.
All very nice, but what when the sun doesn’t shine on the solar panels for several months? See here below a picture of a storm on Mars that lasted several months indeed.
Details about the picture above here.
This situation would be catastrophic for the Mars-One base as they suggest it to be. Everyone at the base will die because of the lack of solar energy. Therefor it is crucial making efforts not to rely on only the sun. In fact I believe solar energy is the temporarily solution before creating the permanent one towards a constant supply in energy on which one can always rely.
This in the next chapter: ‘Reliable energy’.