Types of solar energy explained

Carbon emissions are on the rise, and concerns about global warming permeate the public attention It is no wonder that legislation is leaning toward conservation. Businesses and individuals are seeking ways to cut their carbon footprint. There are many options to explore, and even more on the horizon. There are several different types of solar energy.

One area that has seen the greatest development in terms of consumer availability and affordable options is solar energy. This clean, green source of energy is not only abundant yet easy to harvest and convert to usable power.

There are different options for solar energy. You need to do some research to determine which ones are right for your home or business and your overall needs. This begins by understanding the different types of solar energy, how they are used, and the benefits you stand to gain. Here are a few things you need to know before upgrading to solar energy.

Photovoltaic Energy

This form of solar energy converts sunlight into electricity in a process known as the photovoltaic effect or the photoelectric effect. This is accomplished with solar panels designed to collect sunlight using semiconductor cells. When light particles, or photons, reach solar panels, they interact with the semiconductor elements within, exciting the electrons and displacing them.

This creates a direct current of electricity. An inverter then converts the direct current into an alternating current that is used in homes or businesses to power lighting, appliances, and other electronic devices.

Solar panel technology has advanced significantly over the past several decades. This is thanks to increasing awareness of environmental issues and subsequent consumer demand. This makes more durable and efficient products, even though prices have become more affordable.

Thanks to government energy initiatives, more homes and businesses than ever now enjoy solar energy. Power providers are working to increase the percentage of green energy they provide to customers.

Thermal Energy

These days the concept of converting sunlight to usable energy has become somewhat commonplace. This is thanks to advances in solar panel technology. The heat of the sun is harnessed, as well. In fact, it is actually more common worldwide to use the thermal energy produced by the sun than sunlight.

Thermal energy is most often collected by flat-plate solar collectors that absorb the heat of the sun via a dark metal plate. They transfer it to fluid in a storage tank via pumps or gravity, as part of a solar water heating system. This fluid heats water in the home.

Consequently, thermal energy converts to electricity. This is uses massive arrays of ground-mounted mirrors that collect and concentrate solar radiation. This converts it first to mechanical energy and then to electricity. This is not something the average homeowner or business can harness. It is most often undertaken by power companies. Mirror arrays in desert regions receive abundant sunlight year-round.

Solar Energy Applications

There is no end to the uses for eco-friendly solar energy. There certainly are some regions that receive more sunlight than others. Nearly anyone can draw energy from the sun to use at your home or business setting to reduce or even eliminate utility costs.

For example, some homeowners use thermal energy to heat their swimming pools during the summer months rather than watching their heating bills skyrocket. More complex versions of these solar water heating systems can provide hot water for use in the house or even for boilers connected to systems of radiant heating.

Solar panels are more often used for electricity since it is impractical for the average home or business owner to set up a mirror array. With enough solar panels, access to sunlight, and proper placement, the sun provides all the power needed for a structure year-round.

Sunlight is also used to brighten your home interior. This is not just by coming in through windows, but with fiber optic technology. Sunlight collects on the roof by lenses and then transferred through fiber optic cables to lighting fixtures in your home.

This means you can bring light to dim areas of the house, such as bathrooms, closets, hallways, attics, basements, and other areas without windows or any electrical draw. This technology is still rather pricey, though, so you might want to consider inexpensive solar tubes as an alternative.