Solar Power

Solar power is energy harnessed from the sun. There are two ways in which this process can be achieved and each have their advantages and disadvantages.

Solar Panel

Solar Photovoltaic (Solar Panels)

Solar Photo Voltaic or Solar PV for short involves the harnessing of sun directly to electrical energy. This is done using solar panels usually made from some form of silicon or similar element. These panels can be installed in various orientations in order to maximize the amount of energy converted from solar radiation to electrical energy.

Although in some locations, solar intensity is consistently high, we still have the problem that the sun only shines for about 6-8 hours a day which again leaves us with the problem that our energy source has limited potential within an energy mix.

Something that solar PV does have going for it is the fact that our peak usage occurs at roughly the same times as our peak solar energy generation, and therefore it is extremely useful at smoothing the peak energy demand.

Solar Thermal Power Station

Solar Thermal

The other widely used form of solar energy is solar thermal. Unlike Solar PV, solar thermal energy plants are essentially thermal generators where the heat is harnessed from the sun instead of by burning coal or other non renewable energy forms. This is usually done by either reflecting light using angled mirrors toward a large central chamber, or by running hundreds of metal pipes along curved mirror troughs where the pipes congregate at a central thermal heating unit for generation. The advantage of solar thermal plants over solar PV panels is that solar thermal energy can be stored as heat in molten salts or graphite bars allowing a much smoother supply of electricity to meet energy demand.