Benefits and Systems in Solar Energy
All kinds of energy on earth originates in solar energy. There are two ways in which solar energy can be used. The first one is through the Thermal mode, where heat is used for cooking, heating or generating electricity, and the second one is through Photovoltaic where solar energy is converted into electricity that could be used for a variety of applications like lighting, moving or pumping. Because solar energy is free of pollution, available in abundance and throughout the world, it is a highly interesting source of energy for everyone.
Reasons for Choosing Solar Energy
It is possible to use solar energy for different types of applications. It can be used for both grid-connected and off-grid generation of power.
1. Solar energy for grid-connected electricity
Large scale grid-based solar energy is generated from CSP Plants and photovoltaic (PV) cells. The reasons for choosing grid-connection include the following:
• Day is the time of peak load demand and solar energy is easily available during this time.
• Because the equipments involved in solar energy conversion and storage are relatively long-lasting and require lower maintenance, the energy infrastructure lasts longer.
• Lower cost of running and ROI on grid-tie up.
• Relative to traditional thermal power, solar energy produces clean energy without causing any pollution.
• Availability of free solar power in every part of the world, and can be used almost anywhere.
2. Solar energy for off-grid:
Locations that have easier access to grid are using grid-connected systems. However, the areas where grid connection is hardly accessible or expensive to bring, solar energy can be generated in an off-grid system. This involves power generation from different types of small generators running on gas or diesel and a renewable energy such as solar power, wind power or biomass. Such systems may or may not have a power storage facility in the form of batteries. Such remote power systems can be installed for many reasons. This includes the following:
• A desire to depend on renewable energy that is free from pollution and is safe for the environment.
• A desire to combine different available options of power to create a hybrid source of power generation.
• A desire for becoming independent from the inconsistent or fault ridden grid connection.
• Availability of power storage systems like batteries.
• Absence of overhead wires – elimination of power loss during transmission.
• For use in different products and purposes like heating, cooking, lighting, communication equipments, pumping or in small scale industry.
1) Solar Photovoltaic (SPV)
SPV cells work by converting sunlight into electric current. An SPV cell is a semi-conductor system made of silicon or similar materials. The system generates electricity when it is exposed to sunlight. Power is generated by connecting thousands of tiny solar cells which forms modules.
There are different types of solar PV cells based on the choice of materials used. Crystalline Silicon solar cells are of two types – polycrystalline and monocrystalline. Thin-film solar PV cells can be made of Amorphous Silicon, CdTe or CIGS.
2) Solar Thermal
The next type of technology in solar energy, solar thermal power systems work by concentrating sunlight for producing electricity through the thermal mode. Also referred to as high temperature solar power systems, the collectors are of 3 main types – Parabolic Dish Systems, Power Tower System and Parabolic Trough System.