Solar energy: Everything You Need To KnowSeptember 29, 2020
The climate emergency is causing us, now more than ever, to review the actions that are within our reach to reduce our environmental impact. One of the actions that both people and companies can take is to use renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. Today we are talking about solar energy.
We have talked on many other occasions about photovoltaic energy, how to install solar panels, or self-consumption in general. But what exactly is solar energy? How does it work? And above all, why is it one of the best renewable energy options? We go over it all in today’s post.
What is solar energy?
Solar energy is renewable energy obtained from the electromagnetic radiation of the Sun. It is a renewable energy because it is obtained from a natural and inexhaustible source, in this case, the Sun.
How is solar energy produced?
Solar energy can be captured by photocells (that make photovoltaic panels we all know), heliostats, or solar collectors, which subsequently transformed to thermal solar energy (through temperature) or solar photovoltaic (through the light). It can also be used passively with bioclimatic and sustainable architecture techniques, as we will see below.
Solar energy is one of the easiest sources of renewable energy to produce , especially photovoltaic solar, which is causing its use to be extended in climatic zones with more hours of sunshine. And Spain is no exception to this rule – although we still have a lot of room for improvement to continue transforming energy from non-renewable sources (oil or coal) into renewable sources.
What types of solar energy are there?
Depending on the origin and processing of solar energy, we can divide it into different types:
Thermal solar energy
Solar thermal energy takes advantage of the sun’s energy to produce heat, which is later used as an energy source both at the domestic and industrial levels, transforming this energy into mechanical energy and from it into electrical energy.
In the case of domestic energy, we would be talking about a low temperature solar thermal installation, with an installation made up of solar collectors or collectors installed on the roof or in a sunny part of the building. These capture solar radiation and convert it into heat, which passes through a circuit of metal tubes that generates enough energy for normal use in a home: hot water and heating.
But solar thermal energy can also be harnessed on a large scale. We are talking about the thermosolar plant or solar thermal power plant, large tracts of land with high-temperature solar energy collectors. These facilities operate at temperatures above 500ºC: they transform thermal energy into electrical energy to supply the traditional electrical grid and can cover large areas of territory. In addition, current technologies allow storing heat in a very economical way, being able to later transform it into electricity as needed, thus regulating production.
Photovoltaic Solar Energy
Unlike solar thermal energy, photovoltaic solar energy consists of directly obtaining electricity from solar radiation. This is achieved thanks to the installation of photovoltaic solar panels, which have silicon cells that transform light and heat from the sun into electricity. As in the case of solar thermal, these panels or solar panels can be installed both domestically in buildings and houses, as well as in large installations – known as photovoltaic plants.
Photovoltaic panels do not produce heat, so this energy cannot be stored; however, surplus photovoltaic solar energy can be discharged into the consumption grid, known as “photovoltaic surplus”. Thanks to photovoltaic panels, self – consumption of energy have been greatly democratized, that is, each home can produce its own electricity for its own consumption.
Passive solar energy
Solar thermal and photovoltaic energy use different technologies to capture and process the sun’s energy – this is what is known as active solar energy. But we can also take advantage of this energy passively, that is, without the need for any mechanism to collect and process it.
The passive solar energy is mainly achieved with bioclimatic architecture: a design principle of buildings where the use of different materials and guidance is achieved using the energy collected during the day to keep warm building at night or avoid excessive heat during the sunniest hours. Although all this may seem very modern and technological, it is actually one of the oldest ways of harnessing solar energy: adapting buildings to the climate of the area to achieve perfect air conditioning at all times.
What are the benefits of solar energy?
Although there are other types of renewable energy (such as wind, hydro or geothermal), solar energy has become popular as one of the easiest renewable energies to produce and has democratized access to green energy sources. We are going to list some of the advantages and benefits of this type of energy:
- It is ecological, an inexhaustible source (the Sun will be with us for the next million years), and its transformation into thermal or photovoltaic energy does not produce waste (unlike nuclear or fossil fuels).
- It has less impact on the environment. Although other renewables are also inexhaustible and without waste, the impact of solar is less. For example, wind turbines have a negative impact on birds, as do hydraulic installations on fish in rivers. This does not happen with solar installations.
- It is reusable. One of the problems with renewable energies is that they are irregular (they depend on the wind blowing, the river going down, the tide rising or the sun shining). But thanks to technological progress, solar energy can now be stored to transform it into electricity on demand or take advantage of the surpluses generated.
- It is democratic. The installation of solar panels has been falling in price gradually so that almost everyone can access solar self-consumption with their own solar panels in their home or neighboring building. A way of self-sufficiency even for isolated cores of the network.
- It is customizable. From private facilities of a few square meters to large energy production areas located in solar plants, solar energy adapts to all types of needs, land, and societies.
- It generates wealth, employment and contributes to sustainable development. The reconversion of the sector and the development of careers related to solar energy are increasingly important, covering sectors ranging from engineering, installation, and operation.
- It reduces the use of fossil fuels, therefore of oil energy imports, and thus allows us to be more self-sufficient as a society.
Self-consumption and solar energy
Throughout this post, we have repeated several times that solar energy is the best way to be self-sufficient in terms of energy production. And if we are concerned about the environment and where the electricity we spend in our home comes from, it is best to produce it ourselves.
Solar photovoltaic installers
Solar energy companies are experts in solar self-consumption. We accompany you throughout the process: from designing the best solution for your home according to its orientation, its situation or depending on whether it is a single-family house or a neighboring building; going of course through the installation of photovoltaic solar panels; to the management of your invoices and the redistribution of the surpluses produced. We have our own team of solar panel installers who will be in charge of giving you the best solution for your case, thus optimizing both production and energy consumption.
If you want to know more, get in touch with us and we will be happy to analyze your case and propose a personalized solution. Because where your energy comes from says a lot about you … switch to solar energy and start saving while taking care of the environment.