There are two types of Solar Energy systems: Photovoltaic Solar Energy and Thermal Solar Energy. Photovoltaic energy produces electricity from solar energy, while thermal energy produces heat from the sun’s energy.
Photovoltaic Solar Energy is a clean, silent and we can even say “an source of energy, which produces electricity from sunlight.
Brief History of Photovoltaic Solar Energy
The photovoltaic (PV) effect was first observed in 1939, although it was not until 1954 that scientists were able to discover how it worked. In its early days, the space industry was the biggest proponent of PV, as it is the best and cheapest source of energy for satellites.
Today, due to reduced costs, increased environmental awareness and greater energy efficiency, the industry is developing at an incredible speed. Photovoltaic panels are now starting to be seen on the roofs of houses, in car parks or on the roofs of industrial buildings.
How Does the Photovoltaic Process Work?
Broadly speaking, and without pretending to give any technical explanation, the photovoltaic process works the following way.
The solar panels of a photovoltaic system capture photons of sunlight. They are composed of solar cells with layers of different materials and an anti-reflective coating that helps each cell capture as much light as possible. Underneath is a semiconductor, usually made of silicon, sandwiched between a negative and a positive conductor.
The photons, when captured by the solar cell, begin to release, within the semiconductor, the outer electrons of the atoms. The negative and positive conductors create a pathway for the electrons creating direct current (DC), this direct current is taken to an inverter that converts it into alternate current (AC), which is what we consume in our homes.
Differences Between Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal Energy
Due to the regulations that existed in Spain until April 2019, only solar thermal energy panels were being installed in this country because, thanks to the famous “sun tax”, it was forbidden to produce our own electricity in our homes. As a result of this law change, we can now install photovoltaic energy panels to produce our own electricity.
So when it comes to deciding which system is most appropriate for your home or office, there could be some confusion about which type of panels to choose, so we will briefly explain in a simple way the differences between each one.
Solar Thermal Energy
Solar thermal panels use the sun’s heat to heat a liquid, usually water, to high temperatures. This heat is then converted into electricity by a generator.
Solar thermal systems are more efficient at heating things, such as water heaters, and less efficient at generating electricity.
Photovoltaic Solar Energy
Photovoltaic solar systems, however, convert sunlight directly into electricity (DC) and we only need an inverter to convert it into alternate current (AC).
Photovoltaic systems, by producing electricity directly, are much more versatile, and also require very little maintenance beyond a little cleaning of the panels once a year.
There are many advantages to solar energy, and photovoltaic systems are a powerful form of clean energy. A properly installed photovoltaic system will provide you with plenty of energy, reduce your electricity bill, help you during blackouts or power cuts, and if you are connected to the national grid you will be able to offset the excess energy produced with your night consumption.
What you can be sure of is that this amazing technology will allow you to have the cleanest and most environmentally friendly energy, while providing you with significant savings on your electricity bill.
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