The uses of solar energy can be divided into two large groups: photovoltaic solar energy and thermal. Photovoltaic energy is used exclusively to generate electricity. On the other hand, solar thermal energy is used to use thermal energy directly and create electrical power.
Solar systems can be active or passive. Passive solar energy is a way to take advantage of the Sun without supplying additional energy to make it work. These techniques are used particularly in bioclimatic architecture. On the other hand, active solar energy requires some extra energy system to direct the solar panels or pump water.
Although solar energy has been around for a long time, it has only recently been used on a large scale to generate electricity. Here are some examples of solar energy applications in daily life:
These are facilities with solar panels made up of solar cells installed to generate electricity in isolated houses, mountain refuges, etc. They are handy due to the difficulty of connecting to the electrical grid.
Sometimes these facilities are accompanied by some additional wind power system.
Grid-connected Solar Panels
This option consists of installing PV panels on the roof. The system is connected to the general electrical grid, and the over-production is sold to the electrical company.
It allows reducing the electricity bill because you reduce the amount of energy bought from the grid and because you can compensate your bill with the electricity sold.
Sometimes connecting public lighting to the electricity grid is more expensive than installing a small photovoltaic panel with a battery on each streetlight. In this way, the solar lighting battery is charged during the day and transforms the accumulated energy into light at night.
Photovoltaic Power Plants
They are large extensions with photovoltaic panels installed. The objective is to generate electricity to supply the electrical grid.
Solar panels are often installed with a solar tracking system to optimize the panel's orientation to the sun's position with the help of an electric motor.
Solar Thermal Power Plants
Solar thermal power plants use the sun's heat to generate electricity. Solar thermal power plants can be classified into parabolic troughs and solar towers. Parabolic trough solar thermal power plants have long, curved mirrors that reflect and focus sunlight onto a receiver pipe that runs the length of the mirror.
The sunlight heats fluid in the receiver pipe, which is then used to generate electricity in a conventional steam turbine. Solar tower solar thermal power plants use many mirrors (heliostats) to focus sunlight onto a central receiver at the top of a tower.
The heat from the sunlight is used to generate steam, which drives a turbine to generate electricity.
Electric Vehicles (evs)
Electric vehicles are regular vehicles that have solar panels to power the car battery. EVs are one of the most popular examples of solar energy. Solar panels can be used to power electric vehicles, which can significantly reduce emissions and help to protect the environment.
There are several types of electric vehicles, including cars, buses, and bicycles. Solar-powered electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular in a variety of different countries around the world. One of the main advantages of using solar energy to power electric vehicles is that it helps to reduce emissions.
Another advantage of solar-powered electric vehicles is that they tend to be much cheaper to operate than traditional petrol or diesel vehicles. This is because you do not need to purchase fuel for them – the sun's energy is free.
Solar-powered electric vehicles also have lower maintenance costs than traditional petrol or diesel vehicles.
However, In general, this solution is insufficient for everyday vehicle use. At least, its use makes it possible to increase its autonomy.
A solar cooker is a device that uses the energy of the sun to cook food. Solar cookers can be used to cook anything that can be cooked in a conventional oven or stove, including casseroles, stews, bread, cakes, and pies. In addition, these devices can be used to bake, boil, or steam food.
Solar cookers are solar concentration systems. With the help of mirrors or radiation is concentrated at one point to raise the temperature and be able to cook.
They are portable and can be used outdoors, making them ideal for camping and picnicking. Solar cookers are also environmentally friendly, as they do not produce emissions or waste products.
Solar Water Heaters
Solar heaters are a set of elements arranged to obtain hot water thanks to solar energy. The essential elements of solar heaters are a solar thermal collector and a solar accumulator to store hot water.
The hot water obtained with this solar technology is known as domestic hot water (DHS), which is used for domestic use and space heating.
Most of these solar water heating systems work with passive solar energy.
Swimming Pool Heating
Low-temperature solar thermal energy is an excellent option for heating pool water with meager energy costs. This technique is carried out using solar collectors through which the pool water is circulated during the hours of solar radiation.
A calculator is a simple, everyday example of solar energy in action. Solar cells in calculators convert sunlight into electrical energy, which powers the device. The energy consumed by a calculator is very low, so a small set of photovoltaic cells is enough.
In this way, it is not necessary to use batteries or chemical products that harm the environment.
Photosynthesis is the process that produces organic molecules from simple inorganic molecules from the sun's energy. This process is used by plants to create their own food.
A solar dryer is a device that uses the sun's energy to remove moisture from clothes and other fabrics. They are a great way to save energy, as they do not require electricity.
There are many types of solar dryers, but all work by using the sun's heat to evaporate the water from the fabric.