Solar power is the process of generating electricity by harnessing solar radiation from the sun. There are different ways to harness sunlight, including solar thermal power plants, photovoltaic cells, and domestic water heating.
These methods focus and concentrate sunlight and transform it into electricity. In this article, we will look at the two main ways of collecting solar radiation.
Photovoltaic cells directly transform the sun’s energy into electricity. The photovoltaic cells utilize a silicon semiconducting material that creates a small current when struck by the sun’s photons. This makes what is known as a photovoltaic effect.
Solar power that uses photovoltaic cells is formed directly when the sun’s energy is transformed into electricity. The photovoltaic cells, made of silicon semiconductors, meet with the incoming photons, producing an electric current.
The cells are then placed in a solar panel and positioned to face the sun. In addition, the solar panel can be placed on the roof if it’s for residential use and or arranged in an array if they are intended to generate electricity for utility-scale. This arrangement helps them to collect significant amounts of solar energy.
Solar Thermal Power Plant
The other way of collecting solar energy is through solar thermal collectors. Unlike photovoltaic cells that directly convert the sun’s energy into electricity, solar thermal power plants use the sun’s energy to heat fluid at high temperatures. The heated fluid transmits its heat to water, which then becomes steam.
After this, the steam is used to rotate turbines in the power plant to convert the mechanical energy into electricity. Solar collectors are then used to focus the sun’s rays at a specific point to get high temperatures.
This type of electricity generation may be similar to the one that uses fossil fuels. However, unlike the latter, which heats steam using fossil fuels, the former uses sunlight to heat the steam.