As we become more environmentally aware we look for new ways to reduce the world’s dependency on fossil fuel. Hopefully, new technology advancements will soon make solar power systems commonplace world-wide. Several methods have been developed to harness the sun’s power and convert it to solar power energy that can be used for our daily needs.
The two most common are the photovoltaic system and the concentrating solar power system. The Photovoltaic system or PV system, converts sunlight directly into electricity and is the one most commonly used in residential and industrial applications. The Concentrating Solar Power, or CSP system, uses the heat from the sun instead of fossil fuel, to provide the heat to fuel a traditional power plant, generating enough electricity to power a city. A CSP system generates electricity on a large scale using one of three methods, the parabolic-trough system, dish engine system and power tower system.
Panels for generating solar power energy can vary greatly in cost depending on the type of installation you are aiming for. If your building is in a more remote area and is industrial you can use the typical boxy style roof mounted panels. If you want a more discrete, dual purpose installation you can even have your structure constructed with solar cells built right into the roofing, awning and window materials.
If your structure is shaded part of the time, consider mounting the solar panels with ground and pole mounts; adding greater freedom to your design. Additionally, the panels can be rooftop mounted. Special features can be added to solar panels that cause them to follow the sun’s path across the sky, thus increasing their energy output and providing more solar power energy.
Parabolic-trough systems focus the heat of the sun using long mirrors. This heat travels to piping built into the center of the mirror through which oil is pumped to carry the heat away from the mirrors. The heat from the oil is then used to heat water to create steam that powers a generator to create the solar power energy.
Dish-engine systems that are made up of a solar parabolic dish, use heated fluids in a similar way to the parabolic-trough systems, but the expansion of the heated fluid allows it to move large pistons for powering an electric generator to generate solar power energy.
Power tower systems utilize a large array of mirrors which concentrate the heat from the sun on a receiver which in turn heats up molten salt that flows through the tower-mounted receiver. Heat from the molten salt is used to heat up water which creates the steam that powers a generator.