Solar systems utilize energy from the sun to generate electricity, heat water and provide space heat. Solar energy can help replace the use of fossil fuels, helping to stabilize the climate, reduce pollution and save resources.
Solar Electricity (Photovoltaic or PV)
Electricity is generated when sunlight hits the solar cells and produces an electric current. This electricity can either be used right away, fed to the electric power grid or stored in batteries for later use. Solar electric technology is advancing quickly and increasing in popularity. It can be used to power a small calculator or an entire building.
Solar cells come in many forms, including flexible solar laminates, shingles, glass, film and panels. They can be integrated into a building so that the solar cell is nearly invisible.
Solar Heat and Hot Water (Solar Thermal)
Solar panels are used to capture heat for pools, hot water or space heating. This is a mature technology that has been used for many centuries. Most solar thermal panels are more efficient than solar electric panels and can be up to 90% efficient.
There are three common designs for these solar collectors. One design is a glass covered box painted black where a fluid runs through the panels, capturing the heat. Plastic panels are often used for heating swimming pools, where water runs through coils. Evacuated tube panels consist of numerous glass tubes that can generate high temperatures.