Until a few years back, plants were the only things ‘trapping’ the solar power and converting it into food through photosynthesis. Thanks to technological advancements, we too can now use the sun’s energy to produce ‘food’ that runs our appliances, heats our pools, and lights up our homes. The journey that began in 1954 with Bell Labs’ invention of the first practical silicon solar cell has traversed many a mile. We now transform sunlight into electricity via three main technologies – photovoltaics (PV), heating systems, and concentrating solar power (CSP). Let’s take a brief look at each below:
Commonly known as solar panels, these devices convert sunlight into electricity. As people began to realize the potential advantages of solar-powered homes, installation and maintenance costs for these technologies dropped considerably. In recent years, people even started using solar PVs on different scales— from large utility-owned setups to single-family homes. In fact, residential solar registered the quickest growth in the US solar industry in 2015.
Solar Heating Systems
Solar heating systems do not transform solar energy into electricity. Instead, they use sunlight directly to raise building temperatures. When water runs past a solar energy collector, it gets heated. This hot water, in turn, is sent back for use. Since heating water accounts for 14 percent of the energy used in the home environment, your utility bill immediately goes down when you make the switch to solar heating.
Concentrating Solar Power
This technology involves the use of reflectors to focus the sun’s rays onto a small, highly efficient solar collector which then heats up a fluid like synthetic oil or molten salt or water. The steam that is generated via this process is used to drive an electric generator.
Concentrating solar power is meant more for industrial applications than home use. Since these technologies operate on a huge scale, they occupy more space than regular solar panels and are impossible to fit in a limited space such as the rooftop of your building. Concentrating solar power plants produce massive amounts of energy, with the smallest option generating nearly 1,000 times the power of a typical rooftop solar system.
While solar energy technologies continue to grow and evolve over time, the truth is they all employ the same basic concept – converting sunlight into other forms of energy. We’ve just made it simple and cheaper to install solar technology. Do you wish to experience the cost-cutting benefits of embracing the solar power? If yes, contact us now.