One of the primary sources of renewable energy and a crucial component of the shift is solar energy. It supports the development of cleaner economies that safeguard the environment, enhance human welfare, and guarantee the long-term viability of businesses.
Technical advancements have made solar energy one of the renewable energy sources that is both efficient and inexpensive. In addition to promoting environmental sustainability, this limitless energy source also boosts business competitiveness by luring investment and employment growth.
We should be knowledgeable about the many forms of solar energy, how they function, and how their usage may be expanded as a source of power generation at a time when protecting our planet and the environment is a top priority.
What types of solar energy are there?
Photovoltaic solar energy
A photovoltaic system, which is an installation that produces electrical energy utilising photovoltaic modules capable of directly converting solar radiation into electrical energy, is used to capture this kind of energy. Photovoltaic cells used in solar panels ionise and release electrons that interact with one another to produce an electrical current when exposed to direct light.
With the emergence of solar communities and the energy savings brought about by the new solar self-consumption installations, PV solar energy has significantly gained pace in recent years.
Thermal solar energy
Sun collectors are used by solar thermal devices to convert solar energy into heat. In order to heat water that will subsequently be utilised to support heating or hot water systems for sanitary, residential, or industrial use, these collectors are employed to capture and store solar energy.
A different choice is concentrated solar power (CSP). In this instance, the system works by focusing sunlight on a particular surface using a number of lenses or mirrors. By using the heat to boil water to create steam and power, for example, the turbines of a generator, the process’ energy is used to create electricity.
Passive solar energy
In the case of passive solar energy, the sun’s energy is directly captured through building materials and other techniques, as opposed to having to convert it to other forms of energy as we have seen in other situations (which could be considered active). The primary use of passive solar technology is the heating of living areas. It is a major component of ecodesign and bioclimatic architecture. Another example of a passive solar energy use is natural illumination, which may be achieved directly or through light tubes with internal reflectors.
Hybrid solar energy
In this last scenario, any of the aforementioned forms of solar energy are coupled with additional energies, primarily renewable ones, to produce a larger amount of energy.
The most prevalent illustration is the use of both solar and wind power. Solar panels and wind turbines are combined in hybrid photovoltaic and wind systems to maximise the use of the sun’s and the wind’s resources.
How can solar energy be used and applied?
- Electricity: installing photovoltaic panels to produce electrical energy is the most widespread use of solar energy.
- Heating: through the use of solar thermal panels, solar radiation can be used to heat the water that powers the radiators and underfloor heating of people’s homes.
- Hot water: solar thermal energy in homes is a really interesting alternative for producing hot water for sanitary use due to its efficiency and sustainability.
- Irrigation: generating electrical energy for agricultural irrigation is one of the many different uses of solar panels. The main advantage of this system is that the season with the highest demand for water in this area usually coincides with the season with the highest solar radiation.
- Lighting: photovoltaic solar energy allows for the automation of street lighting, which is an interesting energy saving and a firm commitment to renewable energy sources.