Solar 101

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Solar 101

The Sun is a thermal nuclear power plant that provides two form of energy – heat and light.   Both give us life.  With the development of technology the sun also gives us quality of life. 

Photovoltaic (PV) technology converts light into electricity.  Technically, anything that requires electricity can be PV powered.  For more information on solar electricity go to http://www.seia.org/cs/solar_technology_and_products/solar_electric_photovoltaic.

Solar thermal technology absorbs the sun’s heat energy which can be used for a variety of applications.   

Different types of solar thermal technologies are designed specifically for low, medium, and high temperature applications.  Low temperature solar thermal is used primarily for recreational water heating, such as swimming pools and spas.  For more information go to http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13230.

High temperature solar thermal is used to make steam for industrial processes or to generate electricity.  This technology generally concentrates the sun energy to achieve higher temperatures.  For more information go to http://seia.org/galleries/pdf/factsheet_csp.pdf.

Medium temperature solar thermal is used to heat water and interior spaces for homes and buildings.  The primary types of system designs are active, passive, ICS and evacuated tubes.

Active systems are technically known as forced circulation systems because a pump is used to circulate the heat transfer fluid through the solar collectors and back to the storage tank.  In areas where freezing has occurred, the heat transfer fluid is usually a mixture of water and an antifreeze fluid.  In areas where freezing has never occurred, potable water of the proper quality can be used. A pump controller automatically operates the circulating pump for trouble free use.

Passive systems are technically known as thermosiphon and integral collector storage (ICS) systems.  In thermosiphon systems the storage tank must be located above the solar collectors because there is no pump or controller to circulate the heat transfer fluid.  Solar heated transfer fluid rises through convection and conduction into the storage tank.  

ICS systems are technically known as integral collector storage systems.  In these systems the solar collector and storage tank are combined into one unit.  ICS systems heat water in batches.

Evacuated tube systems used glass tubes to capture the sun’s thermal energy.  They are a variation of active systems.  Refer to our white paper at ASI SIM 0904.pdf for more information.

SunEarth manufactures all medium temperature solar thermal system designs, except evacuated tubes and has more systems certified by SRCC, IAMPO, and Energy Star than any other manufacturer.

Many incentives for homeowners and businesses to install medium temperature solar thermal systems are available at the federal, state, and local levels.  Go to the DSIRE web site to find the incentives available to you.  http://www.dsireusa.org/

By the way, if you are asked “Do you support nuclear energy?” say Yes, as long as the nuclear plant is 93 million miles away!

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