Solar energy is one of the alternative energy sources currently being harnessed and developed for various uses around the world. When we think of solar energy we tend to think of mounting solar panels on the house in order to reduce electrical bills, and while this is a common use of solar energy, there are a potentially unlimited number of applications both in the home and in industry.
There are two types of solar energy processes used: solar thermal energy (STE) and photovoltaic energy. STE uses the sun’s energy to produce thermal energy, otherwise known as “heat.” Photovoltaic energy converts solar energy directly into electricity. In most cases, the solar panels you see on the side of a house are photovoltaic.
How Solar Thermal Energy Works
In a nutshell, STE Steigercentrum bakwagen met steigercombinatie collectors collect and store energy from the sun during the daylight hours, and then release that energy as heat once the sun goes down and the collector begins to cool. How that heat is harnessed and used is what brings such variety to STE production. Depending on the use of the heat energy, one of three different collection methods is used. Those three methods are known as:
• Low temperature collection
• Medium temperature collection
• High temperature collection
Low Temperature Collection – Low temperature collection utilizes small flat plates that create heat for a variety of purposes. Perhaps you’ve seen an outdoor swimming pool being heated with a solar thermal system. Solar panels collect the energy from the sun and then release that energy as heat to the pool, keeping it at the desired temperature. Other uses of low temperature collection include home heating, ventilation, and industrial food processes. For example, STE is used for drying coffee beans and extracting salt from seawater in South America.
Medium Temperature Collection – Medium temperature collection is typically used for creating hot water and providing heating and cooling. It is widely used in both residential and commercial settings in the southern states, due to a climate that is more optimized to solar energy use. It’s used in the construction industry for drying wood and other construction materials, and in the food industry for drying crops and fish. Solar thermal energy from medium temperature collectors is also utilized in the pasteurization process and in cooking.
High Temperature Collection – High temperature collection is most often used in generating electricity. The heat generated by the STE system is used to create steam which then powers turbines or electrical generators. Due to the fact that steam driven generators produce more electricity than photovoltaic cells, using solar thermal energy to produce electricity is more common than photovoltaic in applications where high electrical output is needed.
Since the mechanics of solar thermal energy have not changed much since their first use hundreds of years ago, modern technology is focused on improving efficiency and reducing footprint. The goal is to make STE technology as non-intrusive as possible while still gaining maximum benefit. New technologies are enabling STE collectors to be smaller and more concentrated, all the while producing a greater energy output.
Solar thermal energy is an exciting field for developing new ways of utilizing the sun’s energy. If you’d like to know more about solar thermal systems, you can start by clicking the link. In addition, the Green Energy Center has a lot more information about green and renewable energy in general.