Solar energy is changing the way we create and distribute energy. Solar energy is the future. As a clean, safe, renewable energy source, it is unequalled. Traditionally, humans have relied on the grid for electricity but efforts are in place to reduce dependence on the grid and increase the use of solar energy.
In this article, you will learn about the four main types of solar energy.
- Solar Gain
Solar Gain is a type of solar energy that is often taken for granted. Solar Gain (also known as Passive Solar Gain) is solar energy that is retained by buildings and objects without any additional equipment.
One of the simplest ways of applying solar gain is by painting water tanks black to maximise heat retention and warm the water.
Passive solar gain is particularly important for heating home in colder regions and can account for up to 40% of a home’s heating energy needs. Passive solar gain can be optimised by using building materials that store heat and orienting the windows to receive as much light as possible.
- Solar Thermal
Solar Thermal is a type of solar energy that is created using solar thermal panels. Solar thermal panels absorb light, heat up and transfer the heat to a working fluid through tubes. The working fluid transfers the heat to the point of use such as a swimming pool, a building’s heating system or a hot water store.
Solar Thermal works with a conducting fluid. Many fluids were used in early trials including oil and sodium. The best fluid to use was found to be molten salt.
- Concentrated Solar Power
Concentrated solar power is created by focusing the sun’s rays to a central point using mirrors. A carrier fluid such as oil flows through the central point heating up to temperatures as high as 400C.
Concentrated solar power can only work in areas of direct sunlight. Therefore they are only used in places that have many hours of sunlight a day.
Concentrated solar power is usually found in large scale installations that supply energy to the grid.
- Photovoltaic Solar
Photovoltaic solar was created in the 1830’s. However the first solar PV panel was created in the United States of America by Bell Laboratories in 1954.
Photovoltaic Solar is created using photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic cells convert light directly into electric energy. They are commonly employed in devices such as calculators and watches. They are also used to provide electricity in houses that do not have connections to the grid.
Photovoltaic solar is one of the most common types of solar energy available. Many countries are using them to create large scale solar farms to increase their solar capacity.
In summary, the four types of solar energy are: solar gain, solar thermal, concentrated solar power and photovoltaic solar. The various types of solar energy have their peculiar uses and limitations. Solar energy is a cleaner alternative to more traditional forms of energy and is likely to keep evolving.