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Historically, solar energy was generated through the grid, which burned fossil fuels such as natural gas. This is increasingly hazardous to both human health and the environment. Solar energy, on the other hand, provided a green answer to this problem of air pollution.

Solar energy, a type of renewable energy that helps safeguard the environment and human health, come in a variety of forms. Let’s look at some of its greatest.

1.      Photovoltaic solar energy

Bell Laboratories in the United States created the first photovoltaic (PV) solar panel in 1954. Solar panels generate energy by exposing their surface to the sun’s rays. One of the most well-known kinds of solar energy systems is photovoltaic solar energy systems. Moreover, constructing a single PV solar panel requires a fixed number of solar cells. This generates direct energy, which then converts to alternating current.

What is a solar cell system?

  • Solar cell systems are made up of a collection of solar PV panels that are linked together with the necessary gear to convert sunlight into energy.
Photovoltaic solar energy
Photovoltaic solar energy (wallpaperaccess, 2022)

Many of the world’s major countries, including China and the United States of America, are investing in large-scale solar farms to enhance solar capacity. Developing countries, on the other hand, seek free energy sources in response to rising demand.

In terms of solar panel installations, Asia led the way in 2018. Moreover, they accounted for 75% of global solar power installations, demonstrating that photovoltaic (PV) panels that generate power from sunlight appear to be one of the most popular sources of solar power.

As for the continuously improving efficiency, a photovoltaic solar panel system under normal test circumstances may generate roughly 200 kWh. Furthermore, because of government subsidies, the domestic cost of installing PV solar cells has fallen significantly. This has helped to dispel the myth that solar is prohibitively costly.

Click here to learn about some of the biggest solar myths: https://engineerinc.io/top-10-solar-energy-myths/

2.      Thermal solar energy

Thermal solar energy uses the excess energy to heat water or generate electricity while water travels through tubes. This solar technology first appeared around 1890. Although this method first powered a steam engine, William Bailey subsequently, in the year 1909, devised a thermosyphon system. This device used a water tank with a collector positioned beneath it to get hot water throughout the day.

Although this was an excellent solar technology, it had the disadvantage of transferring heat from the sun. Many scientists have tried different types of fluids to address this problem. Oil, sodium, and molten salt were among the fluids used. However, molten salt was found to be the best alternate option that we currently use. This was because it boosted efficiency while also being expensive.

3.      Concentrated Solar Power (ESP)

Concentrated solar power, often found in large-scale facilities supplies power to its grid. CSPs concentrate a vast area of sunlight onto a receiver using mirrors and lenses. Dr. R.H. Goddard invented a solar power system employing mirror dishes in 1929. CSP systems are classified into four kinds.

Thousands of mirrors are used in current global installations to concentrate the sun’s energy into a region that becomes extremely hot. The heat then works to power a steam turbine, which generates electricity. Spain has the most capacity (2,300MW), but the United States and South Africa are close behind with 1,738MW and 400MW, respectively. This shows that CSPs are more effective in high-temperature areas.

The four kinds of CSP systems

1. The parabolic trough

2. Dish CSP

3. Linear Fresnel reflector (concentrates light)

4. Solar energy tower

4.      Water heating solar energy

This approach is a system that heat water. However, this is achieved by painting tanks with black paint. The theory is that the black paint will absorb heat from the sun and heat the water within.

Water heating solar panels
Water heating solar panels (energy.gov, n.d.,)

The quantity of heat produced by this system is proportional to the amount of heat produced by the sun. As a result, countries with sunnier climates are more likely to profit from this form of solar technology. Furthermore, in these high-temperature places, water heating may be incredibly cost-effective.

5.      Thin-film solar panels

Thin-film solar energy
Thin-film solar energy technology (SUSTAINIA, 2018)

Solar technology can also run with thin-film solar cells. Out of semiconductor materials, merely a few micrometers thick are used in this technology. However, this type of solar is significant because it allows solar cells to double as rooftop shingles, building facades, or windows for skylights enhancing the accessible space from where it can gather sunlight.

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