Solar technologies make it possible to generate clean electricity without having to worry about the damaging environment. Studies in the development of better and more reliable solar technologies continue. There are a number of different types of solar technology in use today, and here we evaluate the differences.
1. Photovoltaic (Solar Electric)
Photovoltaic (PV) materials are devices generate electricity directly from sunlight through an electronic process that occurs naturally in semiconductors. Electrons in these materials get freed by solar energy and can be induced to travel through an electrical circuit to power electrical devices and send electricity to the grid.
The working of PV technology
Photons strike and ionize the semiconductor material on the solar panel, and this causes the outer electrons to break free of the atomic bonds. Due to the structure of the semiconductor, the electrons are forced in one direction to create the flow of electric current. It should be explicitly noted that solar cells are not 100 percent efficient as some light spectrum get reflected while others are too weak to create electricity.
2. Concentrating Solar Power
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants make use of mirrors to concentrate the energy from the sun to drive the traditional steam turbines or the engine that create electricity. This type of thermal energy is used to produce electricity via a steam turbine or heat engine that drives a generator.
Varieties of CPS systems include;
i. Linear Concentrator Systems – These capture the sun’s energy by use of large mirrors that reflect and focus the sunlight into a linear receiver tube.
ii. Dish/Engine Systems – This is a CSP technology that makes use of parabolic dish of mirrors to direct and concentrate sunlight onto a central engine to produce electricity.
iii. Power tower systems – This technology makes use of numerous large, flat power concentrate mirrors (heliostats) to focus sunlight on a receiver at the top of a tall tower.
iv. Thermal storage systems – This technology offers a viable solution to the challenges that face the production of energy when clouds block the sun.
To make use of the CSP technology, the following are required;
– Substantial financing for startup
– Areas of high direct normal solar radiation
– Contiguous/large parcels of land with limited cloud cover
– Access to water resources to wash collection of mirror surfaces
– Availability of proximate transmission access.
3. Solar Heating and Cooling
The solar heating and cooling (SHC) technologies collect thermal energy from the sun and make use this heat to provide hot water, space heating, and pool heating and cooling for all residential, commercial and industrial applications. The solar collector gathers heat from solar radiations and transfers the heat to portable water. This heated water flows out of the collector to a hot water tank, for the necessary use. Solar water heating systems can be installed in many homes and comprise of three main elements – Solar collector, insulating piping and a hot water storage tank. Electronic control can be included as well as a freeze protection system for colder climates.
The Latest on Solar Technology – Solar Chemical Power
Chemists have developed a significant improvement to capture and retain energy from sunlight, where the stored energy can last dramatically longer that the current solar technology allow. The Solar Chemical Power is a new technology which is extensively under research. It is a very exciting technology based on the idea that a chemical reaction caused by sunlight generates electricity.