solar energy

Solar energy comes from the sun’s light and heat, which is converted into electricity. There are two types of solar energy: photovoltaic and thermal. Solar energy corresponds to energy from the light and heat emitted by the sun. This energy source can be harnessed in photovoltaic or thermal form, generating electrical and thermal energy, respectively. As it is considered a clean energy source, solar energy is one of the most promising alternative sources for obtaining energy.

How does solar energy work?

Solar energy, as its name implies, refers to energy whose source is the Sun. Its capture can be done through various technologies, such as photovoltaic panels, heliothermal plants, and solar heaters.

Basically, when it is captured, sunlight is converted into energy. In photovoltaic panels and heliothermic plants, sunlight is converted into electrical and thermal energy. In solar heating, sunlight is converted into thermal energy.

Types of solar energy

Solar energy can be used to produce electricity through two systems: heliothermal and photovoltaic.

Photovoltaic solar energy

Photovoltaic solar energy is nothing more than the direct conversion of solar radiation into electrical energy. This conversion is performed by so-called photovoltaic cells, composed of semiconductor material, usually silicon. When focused on the cells, sunlight causes the movement of electrons from the conductive material, transporting them through the material until they are captured by an electric field (formed by a potential difference existing between the semiconductors). In this way, electricity is generated.

Consisting of panels, modules, and electrical equipment, the photovoltaic system does not require an environment with high radiation to function. However, the amount of energy produced depends on the density of the clouds, that is, the fewer clouds in the sky, the greater the production of electricity.

This form of obtaining energy, one of the most promising currently, has been growing more and more due to the reduction in prices and the incentives offered for countries to adopt renewable energy sources.

Heliothermal Solar Energy

In the heliothermal system, energy from the sun is transformed into heat, mainly heating the water in homes, hotels, and clubs. To make this possible, solar panels are used (mirrors, collectors, heliostats), which reflect sunlight, concentrating it on a single point where there is a receiver.

The receiver is made of a liquid, which is heated by sunlight reflected off the panels. This liquid is responsible for storing heat, heating the water in the plants, and thus producing steam. This steam moves the turbines in the plants, triggering the activation of generators, which produce electrical energy.

Regions with high solar incidence, few clouds, and flat terrain are suitable for the production of heliothermal solar energy. 

Advantages and disadvantages

Solar energy is considered a renewable source of energy since it is obtained through an inexhaustible source: the Sun. Despite presenting numerous benefits for the environment, the use of this energy source also has some disadvantages. 

BenefitsDisadvantages
A renewable and inexhaustible source of energy.To be manufactured, a solar panel consumes a large amount of energy, which is sometimes greater than the energy generated by it.
Non-polluting.High prices in relation to energy production from non-renewable sources.
It requires little maintenance in its production plants.Variable production according to atmospheric conditions.
Solar panels are increasingly efficient and with lower costs.During the night, solar energy is not produced.
The viable energy source for remote and inaccessible places, as it does not require large investments in equipment maintenance.Regions located in mid/high latitudes produce little energy during winter.
Excellent source of energy for tropical countries, whose solar radiation is usually intense during a good part of the year.The storage of this type of energy is inefficient compared to hydroelectric energy, fossil fuels, and biomass.
Requires less extensive areas to be produced.Requires an efficient storage system.

Another article on this blog that may interest you:

Solar Panel: The Different Models and Advantages