Passive solar energy is the practice of capturing and storing the Sun’s energy in a way that doesn’t require a lot of energy to maintain. In some cases, passive solar energy can even be generated from something as simple as a parabolic dish or reflector system laid out on the roof.
The reason why this type of energy is considered sustainable is because it doesn’t require a lot of energy to keep it running. Instead, it relies on the sun to provide the majority of the energy needed. This allows the operator to be less dependent on fossil fuels and reduce their carbon footprint.
While the technology behind passive solar energy is getting more sophisticated, the basics remain the same. The key to harnessing the power of the sun is by using a device called a heliostat, which tracks the movement of the sun and focuses its rays onto a parabolic dish or a series of troughs filled with solar-powered water.
The Basics Of Passive Solar Energy
Before diving into how does passive solar energy work and the different types of solar power systems available, it’s important to understand the basics of the technology behind solar energy in general.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
Photosynthesis was probably the first type of energy conversion ever documented. During photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water into simple sugars and oxygen. These substances are then stored in the plant’s cells where they remain stable and can be used later by the cell for energy.
This type of energy is also known as “clean energy” because plants can extract it from the air and water and leave minimal carbon footprint. Another important facet of solar energy is its renewability. Since the sun is natural and unlimited, it will provide energy to the planet for as long as the sun shines.
Why Does It Work On A Roof?
One of the main reasons why a roof is a great place to put a parabolic dish or a reflector system is because it provides a lot of space for the equipment needed. While there are a few drawbacks to putting the device on the roof (such as snow and ice potentially interfering with the operation of the device), it’s still considered one of the most power-efficient ways of collecting and storing solar energy.
The Different Types Of Passive Solar Energy
Passive solar energy can be a bit overwhelming with all the different technologies available. To make things easier for potential customers, Sub-Contractors have grouped together several of the most popular and effective devices into four general classes depending on the location of the energy being stored.
These are the focal point absorber, parabolic dish, reflecting collector, and thermal collector.
Each type of system is appropriate for certain situations and comes with its quirks. The important thing to keep in mind is that you can use any one of these technologies to harvest the sun’s energy depending on your own particular situation.
The focal point absorber, also known as a receiver, uses a large collection of parabolic mirrors to focus light onto a single point, which in turn heats up a fluid that can then be stored or used directly.
This is the most popular type of passive solar energy system because it’s relatively simple to install and use. With a focal point absorber, you simply need to connect the system to an existing water line and then set the receiver up on the roof. The device will start collecting energy as soon as it’s installed and you can start using it immediately.
Parabolic dishes are often the preferred choice for farmers and other individuals who need large amounts of energy since they can be quite space-efficient. A parabolic dish system consists of a parabolic mirror and a fluid reservoir.
The ideal scenario for a parabolic dish system is where you have a long axis running from north to south, with the mirror facing eastward. This allows the operator to track the setting of the sun and direct all of its rays onto the reservoir. These types of systems are usually found on rooftops and can store a significant amount of energy. However, if you live in a place where it snows a lot, a parabolic dish system might be a bad choice since it will become covered in snow quite easily especially in the winter.
Another great option for remote farms areas and other similar locations that experience a lot of weather fluctuations is the reflecting collector. A reflecting collector system consists of four or five panels that are laid out on the ground facing east, north, south, and west. Metal sheets are attached to the ground and the panels are covered in bright, reflective metal such as aluminum or stainless steel.
Reflecting collectors work on the same principle as a parabolic dish system except that they use a larger number of smaller parabolic or half-parabolic mirrors instead of one larger parabolic mirror. This allows the operator to generate more energy than they need directly while also taking into consideration the directionality of their energy needs. For example, if you want to create a small power plant that will supply energy to a local area, a reflecting collector would be a great choice since they are more suitable for generating less power than a parabolic dish system but are more efficient at gathering and storing solar energy.
Finally, we have the thermal collector. A thermal collector system consists of either a parabolic mirror and a fluid reservoir or a concave mirror and a coil of copper tubing. The main purpose of the thermal collector is to keep the environment clean by removing excess heat from the house. This is a great choice for homeowners who want to generate energy while also limiting the amount of excess heat entering their home. These systems are efficient at removing heat but are more expensive than the other options since they require more material and thus more money to manufacture and install.
The bottom line is that you can use any one of the four types of passive solar energy systems discussed here to harvest sunlight and thus generate energy. Of course, if you have an existing water supply available, you can use that to make it easier for you to implement any of the four options discussed here. However, if you don’t have an existing water supply or if you are living on a desert island, you might want to consider other alternatives.