The main applications of solar thermal energy are as follows:
- Generation of electricity.
- Heat the water in the outdoor or indoor pools.
- Underfloor heating or radiators.
- Obtaining sanitary hot water. It is used to heat domestic water for showering, washing dishes, washing hands, etc. These systems are regularly used to heat residential water in the summer period. During the winter period this system begins to fulfill a task of supporting the main heat system
- Operating refrigeration appliances. Thermal solar energy can also be used for cooling buildings (air conditioning) or in industrial processes (cooling).
- Agricultural product dryers.
- Industrial use, for example, in solar ovens.
- Cooling by solar energy
- Desalination using solar energy
Thermal solar energy harnesses solar radiation to increase the internal energy of an element. Said in one way: to heat an element. Normally a liquid is heated to be able to transport this energy more easily to the place where you want to take advantage of it.
There is a technique to convert thermal solar energy into electrical energy. Thermoelectric plants generate electricity by this method. They concentrate all the solar radiation in one point to generate steam and with this steam, activate a turbine.
How is electricity generated by solar thermal?
A technology similar to that of coal or nuclear thermal power plants is used to generate electricity using solar thermal energy. These plants use a fuel to generate steam at a very high temperature. The generated steam provides a steam turbine that is connected to an electric generator by means of a shaft.
In this way it is possible to convert solar radiation into thermal energy, later into mechanical energy and finally into electrical energy.
In the case of solar thermal power plants, no fossil fuel is burned, nor is any radioactive material used. The heat source is the Sun. In order to have a sufficiently large temperature, different mirrors are placed to redirect the solar radiation at the same point, which is where the steam is generated.
Photovoltaic solar energy is another technology related to solar energy that allows electricity to be generated. In this case, the photovoltaic panels generate direct current, which by means of a current converter can be transformed into alternating current electricity.
What is sanitary hot water?
The sanitary hot water is the water that, in a house, we use to shower. Because we don't need this water to be excessively hot, it can be easily heated by solar collectors on the roof.
The time to heat a liter of water is greater than the time it takes to consume it when showering, so it cannot be heated at the same time it is needed. To solve this problem there are thermal accumulators, which are tanks in which heated water is stored during the day.
In single-family houses it is very common to see solar collectors. The function of these collectors is to heat domestic hot water for domestic use or for heating. They are generally support systems but they allow considerable economic savings. The installation of these solar collectors is very popular in certain areas due to its low cost of installation.
What is underfloor heating?
Underfloor heating is a system whereby a pipe circuit is installed below the floor of a home. Hot water is circulated through this circuit as heating. The main advantage over other conventional heating systems is that it is not necessary to install wall radiators, so that the walls are free.
Another advantage of this system is that distributing the temperature in a more uniform way does not require that the fluid have such a high temperature. This feature makes it possible for solar thermal energy to be an almost perfect technology for heating this water.
The system for heating the heating circuit is the same as for sanitary hot water. The same solar collectors installed outside the house allow the necessary thermal energy to be obtained.
What is a solar oven?
Parabolic mirrors or heliostats concentrate light (solar radiation) at the focal point. The temperature at the focal point can reach 3,500 ° C (6,330 ° F), and this heat can be used to generate electricity, melt steel, produce hydrogen fuel, or nanomaterials.