Image: Nerthuz – Shutterstock.

Solar energy is a clean and renewable source that offers many advantages and can be used for two different purposes, depending on the technology used, namely: photovoltaic panels to generate electricity or solar collectors to heat water .

Did you know that in just 1 second, the sun radiates more energy than all the energy consumed by man since its appearance on Earth?

That alone would be reason enough for us to consider using this alternative energy source.

But solar power is also clean, and with it we can reduce the use of fossil fuels to achieve the energy sustainability we so badly need in the world.

Not to mention all the added benefits gained by those who choose to generate their own energy with solar panels and by their neighbors.

One of the added benefits is the big savings on the electricity bill, which allows you to pay off the installation before the end of its useful life.

What is solar energy?

The solar energy reaching our planet, and which we receive in the form of light and heat, is part of the electromagnetic radiation that results from nuclear fusions that take place inside the sun.

With a mass 332,900 times that of the Earth, the Sun is composed mainly of hydrogen (74%) and helium (24%) atoms.

The immense gravitational force present in its core causes the atoms of these elements to collide at high speed, causing nuclear fusion.

From the heart of the sun, the energy released by these fusions travels to its surface (the photosphere) and from there radiates in all directions.

Much of the solar radiation that reaches our planet does not reach the ground. Indeed, the Earth’s atmosphere acts as a filter, blocking it to a greater or lesser degree.

Weather conditions (like clouds), the position of the Earth in relation to the sun, and even air pollution are among the factors that interfere with radiation reaching Earth.

Each day, the radiation we receive from the sun goes through a cycle, going from zero to maximum and then back to minimum. In other words, from sunrise to sunset.

Types of solar energy and forms of use.

The electromagnetic waves of solar radiation reach the Earth in two ways, in the form of light and in the form of heat.

Light and heat are clean forms of solar energy and can be used for different purposes.

Likewise, to capture and use each of them, it is necessary to use specific technologies.

Next, we know more about each of them:

Solar thermal heating.

Solar heating systems are old in many parts of the world, and the first models appeared in the 1970s.

They capture heat from the sun and use it to heat water. In homes, solar thermal technology is primarily aimed at providing hot water.

Although they can reduce a good chunk of the bill at the end of the month, the savings are not as great as what can be achieved with photovoltaic systems.

Other uses for solar heaters are pool heating and room heating.

Solar thermal energy is clean and its technology has no negative impact on the environment.

It is therefore a sustainable alternative to the use of gas or oil heating systems.

How does a solar water heater work?

The heat is captured by so-called thermal solar collectors.

They are usually made of aluminum or copper, painted black for better absorption of light and heat.

From the metal of the plates, heat is transferred to the water inside. This water is then transferred to a boiler (thermal tank).

The system is chosen according to the water consumption of the house. After analysis of the consumption, the number of sensors and the capacity of the boiler are calculated.

Thanks to the thermal insulation, the water in the boiler will remain hot until the moment of use.

Photovoltaic systems.

The second technology for using clean solar energy is photovoltaic systems. They are able to generate electricity by converting sunlight, they can supply all the electrical consumption of a home, business or agro-industry.

After all, sunlight is abundant almost everywhere, making it one of the fastest growing alternative energy sources on the planet.

The photovoltaic system can be defined as an electric generator powered by sunlight.

In other words, it is a sustainable option to replace conventional gasoline or diesel electric generators.

How it works?

Each solar panel is made up of dozens of photovoltaic cells made of semiconductor material.

Through a process called the photovoltaic effect, they convert sunlight into electrical energy. In short, the photovoltaic effect is the release of electrons from a semiconductor material when exposed to radiation.

Solar cells are made in such a way that these electrons are used to create an electric current.

Therefore, the power (amount of energy) of each plate will be equal to the sum of the powers of each of its cells.

The energy generated by the plates is produced in direct current and must be converted into alternating current, a standard used in our electrical network.

For this, another important equipment is used in photovoltaic systems, the inverter.

After adjusting the current, the inverter injects the power into the board so that it can be used throughout the house.

So, as we have verified, there are two solar systems to heat water and generate electricity. clean and sustainable systems.