Harnessing the power of the sun has been a goal for humans since the days of ancient Egypt. It’s only been within the past several decades, however, that solar energy collection and distribution has evolved to the point where it’s practical and accessible. Solar energy is available in different forms, with each technology having its own unique characteristics and advantages. Here’s a breakdown of the types of solar energy technology, presented by CES Solar San Diego.
Solar Photovoltaics (Solar Panels)
Based on a technology first discovered in 1839, solar panels are instantly identified with solar power. In 1941, engineer Russell Ohl filed a patent for his “light sensitive device,” which would eventually become the modern solar panel. Such panels transfer collected energy to wire conduits that change it into a usable current.
Concentrating Solar Power
Concentrating solar power is produced by a technology that uses special mirrors, or reflectors. The collected solar energy heats up a fluid to produce steam to power an electric generator. There are three CSP systems:
- Linear concentrator systems: U-shaped mirrors are used to gather sunlight and heat fluid as it flows through adjacent tubes.
- Dish/engine systems: Large mirrored dishes absorb solar energy and transfer it directly to generators via a thermal receiver.
- Power tower systems: Heliostats, or sun-tracking mirrors, are used to concentrate sunlight towards a receiver on a nearby tower. A generator is powered by steam produced by a heat transfer fluid.
Solar heating harnesses the power of the sun to produce heat rather than electricity. Solar water heating, for instance, is achieved by running water near a solar collector. Practical applications of solar technology in this form can substantially reduce utility bills.
Solar energy is an increasingly preferable form of energy because it’s renewable as long as the sun keeps shining, which should be for another 5 billion years or so, according to most estimates. While there are some understandable limitations, there’s no denying solar energy is also appealing because it’s an investment that can pay for itself over time.
For more information on harnessing solar energy or to find solar panels for your home, don’t hesitate to give CES Solar San Diego a call at 1-855-45-COAST. In addition to free consultations, we can also walk you through your purchasing and financing options—every resident should have the ability to go solar!