The Different Forms of Solar Energy
Solar energy has been widely recognized due to the large number of solar panels that are placed daily on the rooves of houses and offices. Nevertheless, solar energy is simply utilizing the sun to produce different forms of usable energy. These can be categorized according to the technology behind them. The main three categories are Solar Photovoltaics (PV), Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), and Solar Heating and Cooling (CHC).
Solar Heating and Cooling
In this application thermal energy coming from the sun is used to produce hot water, space heating, and cooling for residential and commercial buildings.
The devices used in this technology are called solar collectors and can be categorized depending on the fluid inside them.
Solar Concentrating Power
Also using the thermal energy from the sun, several mirrors concentrate this energy to generate steam and drive a turbine, which lastly produces electricity. One of the main advantages is that energy can be stored or used at the moment.
Some important conditions to consider are having direct sun radiation and spacious flat lands.
Solar PV is probably the most known out of all solar technologies. It converts solar radiation directly into electricity once the sun is out. PV panels are made of semiconductors that generate electricity mostly during mid-da, which is the moment when we receive more sun radiation from our sunny friend. Systems utilizing PV electricity can be installed both in remote areas and in urban buildings.
There’re many applications for the different solar technologies. When we talk about solar heating and cooling, the range of applications goes from water, pool, and space heating to air conditioning and cooling depending on the type of collector used. On the other hand, concentrated solar power is mostly used in large-scale projects either for the utility industry or water distillation, enhanced oil recovery, food processing, and chemical production for mineral processing. The high amounts of energy that can be dispatched by this type of solar energy bring a lot of possibilities for high-intensity energy industries to reduce their CO2 emissions while having major economical savings.
The most known form of solar energy is solar photovoltaics and it’s so flexible that major efforts have been placed to electrify different industries around in order to utilize PV systems. Some examples of the applications go from the large-scale energy systems that help the utility industry to diversify their energy production, to small distributed systems in the houses of millions of people connected to national networks. Photovoltaics doesn’t stop there and brings the possibility of giving access to electricity to remote areas and communities, as well as different services like water pumps, streetlights, and telecommunication stations. Solar PV has also been used in military and space applications as well as in the growing electric vehicle industry.
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