Solar Thermal systems collect or absorb solar energy as heat. They can be designed to generate high temperature heat (for electricity production and/or process heat), medium temperature heat (space/water heating and electricity generation), and low temperature heat (for water and space heating and cooling).
Solar Water Heater Basics
Solar water heating systems include storage tanks and solar collectors. Solar water heaters use the sun to heat either water or a heat-transfer fluid in the collector.
Most solar water heaters require a well-insulated storage tank. The tank can be a modified standard water heater, but it is usually larger and very well insulated. Solar storage tanks have an additional outlet and inlet connected to and from the collector.
In two-tank systems, the solar water heater preheats water before it enters the conventional water heater. In one-tank systems, the back-up heater is combined with the solar storage in one tank.
The hot fluid can be used to heat a space, such as in-floor heating system.
Both images are from Energy.gov.
Solar Swimming Pool Heaters
Most solar pool heating systems include a solar collector, filter, pump, and flow control valve.
Water in the pool is pumped through the filter and then through the solar collector(s), where it is heated and returned to the pool. In hot climates, the collector(s) can also be used to cool the pool during peak summer months by circulating the water through the collector(s) at night.
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) uses mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat. Thermal energy can then be used to produce electricity via a turbine or heat engine driving a generator.
Because CSP technologies collect solar energy and convert it to thermal energy that power a generator and be stored, they can be used either as a flexible provider of electricity, such as a natural gas “peaker” plant, or as a baseload source of electricity similar to a traditional nuclear or coal plant. CSP can also be deployed as fossil-fuel backup/hybridization that allows existing fossil fuel projects to run cleaner while operating at the same or lower cost.
This video is from The US Department of Energy.
Solar cells can be incorporated into a wide variety of devices to provide power to operate the device without the device being connected to the grid or to an electrical outlet. Some have small batteries, others do not. The number of solar gadgets is myriad. Here are a few. We invite YOU to e-mail us a photo and description of a solar powered device you are currently using to info [at] solarwa [dot] org!
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