Types of solar energy: Conversion, System, Collectors And Uses

Solar energy is the radiant energy emitted by the sun. Energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation emitted from the sun, notably that part of this energy is converted into utilizable thermal or electrical energy.

Solar energy is defined as ”the transformation of energy that is present in the sun and solar energy is one of the renewable energy”. This post is concentrated on the types of solar energy: conversion, system, collectors, and uses.

Types of solar energy

  • The five basic types of the solar energy are; 


Passive solar energy

Passive solar energy takes advantage of the existing heat generated by the sun to heat living spaces. We evidence the passive solar heating when we climbed into a car on a bright day, rays from the sun entering the car windows were absorbed by the car seat panels and floor thus heat gets trapped in the car. passive solar energy also makes greenhouses effective for the growing plant.

Types of solar energy conversions
Greenhouse effect at growing plant image credit: pixabay

Active solar energy

Active solar energy uses mechanical and electrical equipment to enhance the conversion of solar energy to heat and electric power. Active solar energy can generate much more heat than passive solar energy. Active solar collectors must utilize a substance to act as a conductor so heat and electricity can be stored and transferred.

Types of solar energy conversions
Example of active solar energy is solar panels image credit: pixabay

Thermal solar energy

Solar thermal energy also called solar thermal power is a renewable energy that uses the heat of the sun to produce clean electricity on a large scale. Solar thermal technology uses the sun’s heat to warm fluid produce steam and generate electricity in a conventional thermal process. Solar thermal low-temperature energy which is used for heating or hot water and parabolic trough technology is also solar power plant technology used to produce thermal energy.

Photovoltaic solar energy

Sunlight is made up of tiny packets of energy called photons. These photons radiate out from the sun and about 93milion miles later, they collide with a semiconductor on a solar panel which happens due to the speed of light. The panel is made up of several individual cells, each with a positive and negative layer which create an electric field so photon strikes the cell and their energy-free electrons in the semiconductor material in which the electrons create an electric current.

Types of solar energy conversions
Photovoltaic panels image credit: pixabay

Concentrated solar energy

Concentrated solar energy is also called solar thermal electricity it uses some kind of device to concentrate the solar energy to heat something. Concentrated solar energy is the approach to producing electricity via mirrors. For example, take the natural heat from the sun and reflect it against a mirror focus all of that heat on one area send it through a power system and we get a way of making electricity it’s called concentrated solar energy. There are many concentrated technologies like towers, dishes, linear mirrors, and troughs.

Other than the above five types there are several types of solar energy

Types of solar energy conversion

Solar energy conversion describes technologies certified to the alteration of solar energy to other useful forms of energy. It has three types;

Conversion of solar energy into electricity

Sunlight can be converted into electricity by vibrant electrons in a solar cell. Sunlight is made up of envelopes of energy called photons, When photons hit a solar panel is made up of silicon and other elements inside the solar panel there is a silicon atom which has a nucleus made up of protons and neutrons surrounded by electrons when an electron hit by a photon with sufficient energy it absorbs energy from the photon and breaks free from the atom then a flow of free electron create electricity. 

Solar Cells, Sun, Energy, Power, Alternative, Ecology
Solar cell converts sunlight into electricity image credit: pixabay

Conversion of solar energy into heat

There is no need of converting solar energy into heat we need to store heat energy because already solar energy is in the form of heat energy. Heat conversion has the principle of the Green House Effect. when the surface of the earth absorbs radiation the temperature of the earth increases so when a body receives solar radiation it is having the tendency to re-emit infrared radiation, these infrared radiations are heat radiation which will be trapped by the Green House gases present in the atmosphere and remaining infrared radiation lost in the atmosphere.

Conversion of solar energy into fuels and chemical energy

The substances like water and carbon dioxide use solar energy to form a solar fuel. Solar energy can be converted into chemical energy by photosynthesis, solar energy is also be used to convert carbon dioxide and water into fuels. Consider a cerium oxide which is a junction of the metal cerium with oxygen when subjected to high-temperature oxygen atoms are lost in cerium oxide and at a lower temperature the material reacquires oxygen atoms. Water is converted into hydrogen and carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide in this process cerium re-oxidizes itself and produces fuel.

Types of solar energy storage system

Solar energy is available only during sunshine hours hence we need storage of energy this stored energy is used after sundown.

 Complete classification of this solar energy storage device

Thermal energy storage device

Thermal energy storage devices include sensible heat and latent heat storage devices while this sensible heat storage device includes water storage and pebble bed storage. When the material is heating, melting, or vaporized then the energy can be stored, we can heat a certain kind of material that is metal or liquid and store this heat energy inside that material when this process is reversed this heat can be extracted from such materials. When solid is heated and then melted then it has risen further in temperature so one solid material can store the sensible heat and latent heat at the same time.

Chemical energy storage device

Chemical storage device classifications include chemical and thermochemical storage devices. Consider a matchstick that is burning then it undergoes a chemical reaction chemical energy is a form of potential energy chemical energy is released when a chemical reaction takes place. The released chemical energy produces light and heat. Example of chemical energy is petroleum, batteries, natural gas, coal, and all reversible chemical reactions.

Battery, Aaa Battery, Aa Battery, Electric
Chemical energy batteries image credit: pixabay

Electrical thermal energy storage device

Electrical storage device again classified as capacitor and inductor and battery storage device. Batteries are largely used for the purpose of storing solar energy as electrical energy, solar system is connected to a device such as battery then the battery is charged and that reserves energy for later consumption this stored electricity is used during a power surcease. Battery is a combination of individual cells and a cell is nothing but the combination of electrode and electrolyte material which is collectively called as electrochemical energy when it is in charging mode electrical energy converted into chemical energy, while is discharging vice-versa.

Mechanical energy storage device

Mechanical energy storage devices are further classified as pumped hydraulic storage and compressed air storage and flywheel storage devices. Pumped hydraulic storage is a configuration of upper and lower reservoir, system requires power which pumps water from lower level to higher level when there is a need for power water flows back down through a hydraulic turbine which produces current. Flywheel stores energy mechanically in the form of kinetic energy.

Steam Engine, Toy, Flywheel, Drive, To Play
Flywheel image credit: pixabay

Electromagnetic energy storage device

It can be stored in the form of an electric or magnetic field, magnetic energy can be stored in solenoids because they are easy to coil and no pre-compression is needed. All visible and invisible energy travel in the form of waves called electromagnetic energy.

Types of solar energy system

It has three types;

Grid-tied or on grid solar system

On-grid, solar system recommended serviceability grid edacity domestic and commercial buildings and it is directly connected to the electrical grid and it cannot supply power at night. The solar system generates electricity to flow into the grid, this type with battery backup which is ideal with critical appliances like a water pump lights.

Off grid solar system

When the power grid goes down, you can use batteries because this system allows you to store and save your power in batteries, these systems are ideal for remote areas and undeveloped land, and they use solar panels to charge a bank of batteries especially flexible panels can be used to power recreational vehicles.

Hybrid solar system

Hybrid solar systems are solar panel setups that are grid-connected and include battery storage hybrid systems reduce reliance on the utility and provide backup power when the grid is down, lots of surplus power is generated which is used to charge the solar battery if the battery is already full the surplus power can be exported to the grid.

Types of solar energy collectors

It is the essential device for converting solar energy into heat energy there are several types of solar energy collector;

Non-concentrating collectors

Non-concentrating collectors classified into flat plate collectors and evacuated tube collectors and these are again classified as direct flow evacuated tube collectors and heat pipe evacuated tube collectors. A non-concentrating collector, the collector area is the same as the absorber area. The whole solar panel absorbs light. Non concentrating solar collectors are used usually for low and medium energy requirements. Solar water heating is the perfect example of a non-concentrating collector, Common collectors used for solar water heaters are flat plate collectors and evacuated tube collectors.

Flat plate collector image credit: snappygoat

Concentrating collector

Concentrating collectors classified into four types are compound parabolic concentrating collector, parabolic dish concentrating collector, parabolic trough concentrating collector and solar tower concentrating collector, parabolic trough concentrating collectors are again classified into three types synthetic aromatic fluid collector, molten salt collector, and direct steam generation collector. The concentrating collector is a device to collect solar energy with high intensity of solar radiation on the energy-absorbing surface. Concentrating collectors have a larger interceptor than absorbers and are used for high-temperature requirements.

Satellite Dishes, Parabolic Antennas, Antennas
Parabolic dish concentrating collector image credit: pixabay

Types of uses of solar energy

Our sun is the source of all life on earth and in many different forms solar energy is beneficial to us. There are several types of uses of solar energy;

Solar water heater

The solar water heaters are easy to use. It can provide hot water all day long whenever you require it. The solar water heater of 100-300litres capacity is suited for domestic application, main benefits of solar water heater are fighting climate change, protecting air quality, protecting water quality, monthly savings, and increased home value.

Solar heating for swimming pool

Water is steadily flowing from the pool through the solar heating panels and back to the pool, and the water temperature in the pool is gradually rising. The main advantage of this swimming pool heater helps to save the environment and saves electricity bills, less maintenance required, and also saves energy.

Charging batteries with solar power

Virtually any device functioning on a battery that can be charged with solar power via some kind of photoelectric panel system. The benefit of this solar power charging battery is low maintenance, electrical independence, and also safe and reliable, when solar panels are exposed to sunlight then DC is produced.

Solar energy for cooking

You can also use solar energy to cook a meal. It will drastically reduce our use of gas. There are solar cooker and solar ovens available that allows you to cook easily.  Using solar power when cooking, keep the cooker at around 200 degrees which is sufficient.

Solar energy for outdoor lightning

Solar energy for outdoor lighting

Solar energy gives you great returns. It is certainly one of the best sources of energy as it does not depend on gas, coal, or electricity. Sunlight converts into electricity by using a solar cell and stored in the battery.

Megha BR

Hi, I am Megha B R, I have completed my Post-Graduation in Solid State Physics and pursuing B. Ed. I am a Physics enthusiast. As an Academic writer, my goal is to reach the readers in a simplified manner through my articles. Let's connect through LinkedIn-https://www.linkedin.com/in/megha-br-08a129206

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