You can generate electricity just by collecting sunlight. All you need are solar cells, which are easily available, and a bit of engineering. This technology powers everything from satellites to unmanned aerial vehicles. It also allows us to have wireless electric power charging stations, which are becoming popular with electric vehicles.
Four Forms of Solar Thermal Energy
There are four main types of solar thermal energy:
- Concentrating Solar Energy – This is where you focus sunlight using either mirrors or lenses to heat up a liquid. Most commonly, this is used to generate steam, which in turn generates electricity. Mirrors and lenses are both used for concentrating solar energy. Mirrors are more common because they’re less expensive and easier to engineer than lenses. However, lenses have the advantage of allowing for greater concentration of sunlight. The trade-off is that you need more lenses to capture the same amount of light as you would with a mirror.
- Satellite Thermal Energy – This is where you use a satellite to heat up a liquid, which in turn generates electricity. The satellite will collect sunlight and heat up a liquid, which powers a turbine generator. This type of solar energy system was first proposed in the 1960s and has been tested successfully on several satellites.
- Tunnel Solar Energy – Here, you use a long tube or a series of linked tubes to heat a liquid. The generated steam from the liquid powers a turbine generator, which produces electricity.
- Free-air Thermal Energy – This uses the atmosphere itself as a heat sink to heat up a liquid, which generates electricity. Your heat exchanger allows heat to travel from the air to the liquid. This type of solar energy is also known as “air thermal energy” because the atmosphere is used as the heat sink.
While all of these methods of generating electricity from sunlight are valid, the most popular one depends on the situation you’re in. If you live in a country where electricity is expensive, you might want to avoid using diesel fuel to power your home’s generator. Instead, you could use solar cells to directly power electronic devices.
Why Should You Use Solar Thermal Energy?
There are several reasons why you might want to use solar thermal energy instead of other methods of generating electricity. First, you don’t need a lot of space to install it. When you’re talking about generating electricity with solar cells, you’re generally talking about placing them on the roof tops of buildings. The ground space that these cells occupy is usually not more than two meters by two meters. In terms of roof top area, you’re looking at a 5 to 8 square meter space. Second, you don’t need a lot of energy to start with. The equipment is relatively easy to install and is highly efficient. Finally, you don’t need expert knowledge to operate it. All you need is an electrician to hook up the power supply, and you’re ready to go. If you decide that you want to switch to solar power, you can do so rather easily.
How Does It Work?
When you use any kind of power source, you’re utilizing something that is naturally occurring. This is one thing that makes it different from other types of energy sources. When you use solar power, you’re using energy that is free and available to everyone. It requires no mining or drilling for fossil fuels. This type of energy allows you to generate electricity without the need for any kind of external assistance.
How Long Does It Take To Generate Power?
The amount of time it takes to generate electricity directly from sunlight depends on several factors. First, where you place the panels is crucial. The higher the rooftop, the more the sunlight can be concentrated, and the less time it will take to generate electricity. Second, how effective are your panels in converting sunlight into electricity. The more efficient the panel, the faster it will generate electricity. Finally, how much electricity do you need for daily use? The more you need, the bigger and more efficient the solar cells need to be. With all of these variables, it’s difficult to say with exact numbers. However, if you’re located in the southern hemisphere, where the sun is stronger, you can expect to generate power in about three to four hours a day. With northern hemisphere sun, it’s going to take around six to seven hours to generate the same amount of electricity. This is assuming that you’re using mirrors instead of lenses for concentrating the sunlight.
As you might expect, the time it takes to generate power increases if you use less reflective materials to focus the light. With thin metallic films or some plastics, it will take about twice as long to generate the same amount of power as compared to normal glass. As far as sizing the solar cells, if you have a small area to work with, you can use less efficient cells. For example, if you have a 2×2 meter area, you can use six panels to generate enough electricity for your needs. Alternatively, if you have a 5×5 meter area, you can use twelve panels to have the same effect. Remember that the efficiency of the panels decreases as the square of the distance they have to travel to produce electricity. For example, a 500 watt panel will produce roughly the same amount of electricity as a 300 watt panel, but the 300 watt panel has to travel twice as far.
Conversely, if you need more electricity, you can use larger and more efficient cells. For instance, if you have a large area and need about 35 kW, you can use eight 50 kW panels to provide the same amount of energy.
Where Can You Use This Technology?
You might be wondering where you can use solar energy. Essentially, any place that has enough sunlight to generate enough electricity for daily use is a candidate for this type of power generation. Remember that any place that has direct sunlight is also going to be subjected to heat and humidity, which can quickly drain the batteries of electronic devices, such as mobile phones and tablets. In most cases, these devices cannot run completely on batteries alone, especially if you want to have continuous electricity supply. This is why you need a stable and affordable electricity supply company.
Is It Profitable?
Using solar thermal energy to generate electricity is a very cost-effective way of doing so. The amount of money you’ll need to spend to install it is easily covered by the savings you’ll generate in the long term. For example, you can expect to pay around USD $15,000 to install a 5 kW system. However, in the long term, you can expect to save around $23,000 on electricity bills. This alone makes it a lucrative business proposition. In some places, like Germany, you can get a 20% tax rebate if you install it on your roof. This is one place where solar thermal energy really shines.
The Main Takeaway
Even if you don’t need additional energy, you might want to use solar power to heat your water. Especially during the winter months, when the sun isn’t strong enough to directly power your house, you can use the sun’s heat to heat up your swimming pool or water dispenser. Since the pool area is usually the first to suffer from lack of sun, it’s the perfect space to put up a PV system. You’ll start saving money right away, and the environmental factor is certainly worthwhile.