Types of Solar Energy | What is Solar Energy, Uses, Importance, Advantages, and Disadvantages

Types of SOLAR ENERGY

In this article, we will talk about solar energy and the types of Solar Energy, the renewable energy resource.

The growing inclination of technology towards solar energy due to it being the best renewable alternation energy resource is known to all.

The benefits it has for humans and the environment cannot be denied.

Moreover, it is a renewable energy resource, which if leveraged properly, can make humanity and the Earth flourish.

We have tried to include all the information which would make you grasp the topic with a better understanding.

Explore the meaning and definition of solar energy followed by the types and uses of it.

Grab the importance of solar energy along with the advantages and disadvantages.

Next, we have the discoverer of solar energy for you to explore.

Get deeper insights into the topic by exploring the ways to save solar energy, using solar energy at home.

How to convert solar energy into electrical energy, the working mechanism of solar energy, what appliances run on it and how can you store solar energy.

Finally, know about the top 10 solar energy companies in India.

What is solar energy?

Solar Energy, as the name suggests, comes from the sun. It is one of the most abundant energy resources on the planet and can be captured and leveraged in various forms.

Also, it significantly contributes to the vision of a clean energy future.

Solar energy is the form of energy which is obtained by converting sunlight into electrical energy or thermal energy and used as an energy resource.

It can either be done directly by using the photovoltaics or indirectly by using concentrated solar power.

Also, a combination of direct and indirect methods can be used.

It can be efficiently used for multiple purposes such as generating electricity, providing light or a comfortable environment, heating water for several purposes like commercial, domestic or industrial uses.

One can use solar energy for powering anything from a small calculator to traffic or road signs or large buildings and places.

Solar energy definition

“Solar energy is designated as the radiant light and heat obtained from the sun which is leveraged by using a range of technologies which include photovoltaics, solar heating, solar architecture, solar thermal energy, artificial photosynthesis and molten salt power plants.

Solar energy is a renewable energy resource and can be broadly characterized as passive and active solar energy.

The categorization depends on the method of capture and distribution of solar energy or its conversion into solar power.”

Solar energy is available in a large magnitude which makes it a highly reliable and appealing source of electricity across the world.

According to the World Energy Assessment by the United Nations Development Programme in the year 2000, it was found that Solar Energy has an annual potential of 1575-49,837 exajoules.

This potential makes it several times greater than the total consumption of energy in the world which was 559.8 exajoules.

The International Energy Agency in 2012 stated that the development of affordable, clean, green, and inexhaustible solar energy technologies will bring huge and long-term benefits.

Alongside this, it will develop the security of the countries by improving their reliability on an inexhaustible, independent, and indigenous renewable and natural resource.

Also, it will help in reducing pollution, enhancing sustainability, and reducing the cost of mitigating global warming alongside reducing the prices of fossil fuel.

What are the types of solar energy?

To achieve the purpose of green energy and benefits for the environment, solar energy has emerged as a popular and convenient choice for people across the world.

The dependency of solar energy is on the ability to convert light from the sun into usable energy.

However, there are various types of solar energy as well which have been discussed below as follows:-

Photovoltaics Systems

  • The primary and most common way of using solar energy is the use of photovoltaic systems which are also known as solar cell systems.
  • This system produces electricity directly by using sunlight.
  • The basic principle used in this technology is similar to that used in clocks and calculators that are powered by the sun.
  • In these solar energy systems are the semiconductor materials that observed the sunlight and create a reaction to generate electricity.
  • Precisely, solar energy hits the atoms which make the electrons lose and flow through the semiconductor material to produce energy.
  • These photovoltaic systems are solar cells are combined into a module holding about 40 cells while as a whole measuring up to several meters on the side.
  • They are adjustable and can be mounted as per convenience to capture the most share of sunlight during the day.
  • A significant number of photovoltaic cells are enough for powering a household but hundreds of these might be required for powering a large electric unit or for industrial applications.

Thin Film Solar Cells

Solar energy can also be obtained by using film solar cells

The layers of semiconductor material used in these film solar cells are only a few micrometres thick

All this has made it possible for the solar cells to double and the available space on rooftops, building facades and other spaces can be maximized for utilization

Over years, this technology has faced major improvement in its efficiency talking particularly in terms of capturing and converting sunlight

The first solar cell had the efficiencies of even lower than 4% which were built in the 1950s as compared to today’s technology which offers around 15% efficiency is on an average

Solar Water Heating Systems

Another type of solar energy is solar hot water systems or solar water heating systems

This mechanism considers water heating buy directly using the heat from the Sun

The principle behind this mechanism is derived straight from nature where one can experience the shallow waters of a lake being warmer as compared to the deeper waters

This happens because sunlight potentially heats the bottom of the lake or the shallow areas ultimately heating the water

Therefore coma this system imitates this mechanism in the solar water heating system which is made up of a solar collector and a storage tank

The solar collector, with the most common one being the flat plate collector, is mounted on the roof facing the sun.

The mechanism has small tubes that run through the box while carrying the fluid which is to be heated. The fluid can be water or any other fluid to be heated.

With the buildup of the heat in the collector of the fluid passing through the tubes is heated and the storage tanks hold the heated liquid.

Solar Power Plants

  • Another way to utilize the money power of the sun for energy is solar electricity which has its major applications in the industries
  • In industries, the majority of the power plants take into consideration non-renewable fossil fuels to boil water
  • The steam generated from boiling the water results in the rotation of large turbines and activates the generator for producing electricity
  • This method of generating electricity can prove to be bad for both human health as well as environmental health owing to air pollutants and greenhouse gases from fossil fuel burning
  • However, solar power plants have emerged as the better alternative which relies on solar power which is a renewable and green energy resource. The Solar Power Plants can be used in three different ways which are as follows:

Parabolic-Trough System

This system captured the energy from the sun using long, rectangular and curved mirrors.

They are placed in a tilted position to face the sun and it helps in focusing sunlight on a pipe containing oil.

The oil contained in the pipe is heated which is further used to boil water contained in a conventional steam generator for producing electricity.

A Dish/ Engine System

This system uses a very large satellite shaped mirror dish which collects and concentrates the heat from the sun on to a receiver.

Upon absorbing the heat by the receiver, it transfers it to the fluid within an engine.

Due to the heat, the fluid expands against the turbine or piston and produces mechanical power.

The generator or alternator uses this power to run and produce electricity.

A Power Tower System

This system uses large mirror fields to concentrate the sunlight on the top of a tower.

On the tower top, there is a receiver containing molten salt sits. The heat from the salt is used for generating electricity using a conventional steam generator.

Molten salt in the receiver retains the heat efficiently enabling it to be stored for days before it can be converted into electricity.

This allows the production of electricity even on cloudy days or during the hours after sunset.

Passive Solar Heating

The method of passive solar heating and daylighting can also be used to leverage solar power

In this method, the materials and elements used are heated up during the day and slowly and gently release the heat at night when it is needed the most

What is solar energy uses?

Solar energy can be designated as a clean, green, inexhaustible and renewable resource of energy.

The use of solar energy can significantly result in the reduction of environmental pollution.

Plenty of uses and applications of solar energy are there which are as follows:-

Cooking

One of the primary uses of solar energy in the country is cooking.

Cooking in a solar oven or with the use of solar energy can bring surprising benefits in terms of health as well as money.

With the increasing accessibility of solar electricity, it can significantly reduce electricity bills along with reducing your gas bills as well.

Also, it is safer and better for the environment along with your health as it comes along with serious health benefits.

Charging

Solar energy can be efficiently used for charging electronic devices which are designed to be compatible with solar charging.

Batteries, calculators, clocks and more which are designed in a way that they can be charged from sunlight, can be easily charged from solar energy.

Moreover, it can help in saving up on electricity. The reserve battery bank can be charged throughout the day in the sunlight and used in the nighttime.

Houses

Solar energy can be used in houses for various purposes such as cooking, water heating, charging and various other purposes.

Being a renewable resource of energy, it helps in reducing the electricity bills alongside benefiting the environment when used on a larger scale by various household.

Heater

The use of solar energy can be extended to water heating systems in the household as well as industries.

The solar water heaters take into use a rooftop unit that absorbs the heat from the sun and transfer it to the water tank.

According to the US Department of Energy, one can easily have a five to ten-year payback on solar water heaters.

Also, it can be used for heating swimming pools by circulating water to the collector, heating it by sunlight, and then pumping it back into the pool.

Industries

Industries require a higher and significant level of electricity to operate its heavy machinery and equipment.

Instead of using non-renewable energy resources for generating electricity and powering the operations, solar energy can adequately fulfil the power supply.

This will significantly keep the electricity bills of the industries in control alongside contributing to the betterment of the environment.

Ventilation

Solar ventilation solutions like using solar attic fans can substantially help you in reducing the burden of air conditioners by helping you to keep your home cool during the summer through a natural method.

The commercial and industrial applications of solar ventilation technologies can help in heating the buildings, factories, or commercial complex’s air in cold climates while reducing the energy cost.

Lighting

Changing from commercial to household purposes, the use of solar lighting can be found everywhere.

With plenty of applications, solar lighting can be used in home landscaping, security lights, streetlights, road signs and more.

The use of solar lighting would prove to be an inexpensive and readily available solution while reducing energy usage and adding natural lighting to your surroundings.

What is the importance of solar energy?

The importance of solar energy can be ascertained through the following arguments listed below:-

  • The rising cost of energy is undoubtedly one of the most troublesome issues. Where the resources of the planet are depleting rapidly, technology has paved way for new resources such as solar energy.
  • Solar energy is great for the environment, as it does not produce any greenhouse gas alongside not polluting water and air. It can prove to be a self-sufficient and eco-friendly alternative for providing energy to businesses and homes.
  • Being on the grid with renewable energy companies would lead to steadier rates.
  • Using and supporting solar energy would lead to the development of renewable energy companies which would ultimately result in job creation
  • Through the use of solar energy generated through natural resources, one can obtain enhanced grid security as it is a natural process and difficult to interrupt
  • There are plenty of advantages of Solar Energy which are good for the environment and would lead to less depletion of natural resources

What are the advantages of solar energy?

When talking about solar energy, plenty of advantages are there which one can derive by using this natural alternative.

The advantages of Solar Energy are listed below as follows:-

  • Solar energy is renewable resources of energy which can be leveraged every day and mostly in all the areas of the world. This indicates that we would not run out of solar energy which would be the case in other energy resources. Our access to solar energy is for as long as the sun remains.
  • One can experience a significant drop in their electricity bills as a share of your energy needs will be met by solar energy.
  • Solar energy has diverse applications apart from being used as an electricity resource. Alongside this, it can be used in areas with limited access to other electricity or energy resources.
  • There is a significantly low maintenance cost in solar energy with the only requirement being is to keep them clean. Moreover, as there are no moving parts there is no or very little wear and tear. This ensures that the solar power functions at its maximum efficiency for a longer time.
  • With the development of technology and the solar power industry, there will be further advancements and improvements in the field which would increase the effectiveness of this natural alternative

What are the disadvantages of solar energy?

There are always two sides of a coin, therefore, with plenty of advantages of Solar Energy comes along the disadvantages as well.

Get your hands on the disadvantages of solar energy which are as follows:-

  • While the use of solar energy can help you in saving a fair share on your electricity bill, the initial cost of purchasing and setting up a solar energy system is high. However, with the constant development of solar technologies, it can be assumed that the prices will experience a decline in the future.
  • Solar energy is highly dependent on sunlight and its efficiency can drop to a certain level during rainy or cloudy days. Also, it cannot be collected during the night.
  • One disadvantage of solar energy is that it should be used immediately used or stored in large batteries. However, the storage of solar energy can be an expensive affair.
  • For generating a higher volume of electricity, more solar panels will be required, which would demand a lot of space that might not be available sometimes.
  • Despite solar energy being a renewable and pollution-free energy resource, installation and transportation of solar energy systems are known to emit greenhouse gases affecting the environment.

Who discovered solar energy?

Alexander Edmond Becquerel has been credited with the development of the modern form of solar energy.

Solar energy has been used since ancient times in the world. However, the form of solar energy we see today can be routed back to 1839.

A.E. Becquerel was the who discovered the photovoltaic effect that is the creation of an electric charge result acting from the exposure to light through electron simulation in metals.

The first solar cell that was based on the photoelectric effect was developed in the late 19th Century by Alexander Stoletov.

However, the industry didn’t nurture until the silicon-based solar cell was developed in 1950 is by Bell Labs.

How is solar energy produced?

Talking in simple terms, solar energy is produced when the solar panels are stroked by sunlight.

The solar panels further convert solar power or sunlight into electricity.

  • The process of creating solar energy commences with the installation of the solar panels.
  • When sunlight hits the layer of silicon on the solar panel, it eliminates the electrons from the Silicon atoms.
  • This process results in the development of an electric current which the wiring in the Solar Panel captures.
  • For converting the Solar Energy collected from the solar panels into electricity, inverters are used.
  • The solar panels collect the loose electrons resulting in a direct current.
  • This generated current can be used for charging vehicles, devices, and other electrical things.
  • The electricity generated through the inverters can be dispersed throughout or into an electric grid.

What are the types of solar panel technologies?

Majority of the available solar panels are made from crystalline silicon. However, there are other types of solar panels as well that can be used to produce electricity from the Sun.

The other types of solar panel technologies are as follows:-

Cadmium Telluride (CdTe)

Cadmium telluride solar panels employ a different material than silicon for producing electricity.

Not having high-efficiency ratings, CdTe solar panels have the potential to capture solar energy at a shorter wavelength compared to Silicon panels. Also, it involves low manufacturing costs.

Copper Gallium Indium Diselenide (CIGS)

Copper Gallium Indium Diselenide solar panels can be considered as a promising alternative due to higher efficiencies as compared to the cadmium telluride solar panels.

However, they involve high production costs and use a copper base material for generating electricity.

Organic Photovoltaic Cells (OPV)

These solar panels use a thin layer of organic solution or vapour for generating an electric current from solar power.

Organic photovoltaics cells are not widely adopted owing to lower efficiencies and a comparatively shorter lifespan.

Moreover, they are not cost-effective in the present but have the potential to dominate the solar industry in the future.

How to use solar energy at home

Making the most use of solar energy at home can be a cost-effective and eco-friendly option.

Plenty of ways are there through which one can use solar energy at their home which is as follows:-

  • One of the reasonable alternatives to using solar energy can be solar water heaters. Also, it can prove to be a better option than conventional gas or electric-powered models.
  • Implementation of outdoor solar lights for converting sunlight into electricity can be another efficient way of using solar energy at home. Solar power can be stored in special batteries and used at night as well.
  • One of the increasingly popular home appliances, solar cookers can be an efficient way to implement solar energy at home. Despite being a comparatively slow cooker, it can help in reaping various health benefits alongside saving on your bills.
  • Solar energy can be used in small solar or electrical devices for charging purposes as well.
  • You can use a solar-powered ventilation fan, as it will effectively help you in reducing the cooling costs.
  • If you have a swimming pool at home, solar energy can help you and that is well. A Solar water heating system for the pools can help you in cutting down the heating cause and use solar energy for the purpose.
  • Whether you want to heat your entire home or an area of your home, solar house heating systems can be a substantial investment.

How to convert solar energy into electrical energy

Solar energy can be converted into electrical energy in three ways which are:-

  • The thermal mode which uses heat for generating electricity
  • Photovoltaics in which the Solar Energy is directly converted into electricity to be used for various applications
  • By using Thermocouples

How does solar energy work?

The working of the solar panel is directly related to the conversion of light from the sun into electricity.

The converted electricity can then be used in homes or can be exported to the grid whenever not needed.

All this can be done by the installation of solar panels on the rules for generating direct current electricity.

Further, it is fed into the solar inverter which converts the direct current electricity from the solar panels into alternating current electricity.

The working of solar panels can be explained as follows:-

  • The solar panels are hit by sunlight which establishes an electric field
  • The generated electricity then flows to the edge of the panel and then into a conductive wire.
  • The conducive wire transports the electricity into the inverter which transforms the DC electricity into AC electricity
  • Another wire in the system is responsible for carrying the AC electricity from the inverter to the electric panel to the property which further distributes it throughout as required
  • Any volume of electricity which is not required after generation flows through the utility metre and back to the electrical grid. When electricity flows through the metre, the metre runs backwards and credits your property for the excess generation of electricity.

The science behind the working of Solar Photovoltaic Cells

Many small photovoltaic cells are there in a solar panel made up of semiconductor materials which are often silicon.

Silicon is used because it has the capacity of conducting electricity while maintaining the imbalance in electricity which is required to create an electric field.

When sunlight interacts with the Solar Panel, the loose electrons of silicon are knocked off.

The electric field makes the drifting electrons to flow towards the conductive metal plates.

Upon heating the metal plates, the generated current is directed into the wires which allowed the electrons to flow as they would flow in any other electric generation source.

Further, the energy flows into an inverter which turns the direct current into alternating current for everyday use.

Once electricity is converted into AC power, the inverter sends it to the electric panel and distributes it throughout the building as per the requirement.

There can be cases when electricity is produced in excess and could not be consumed, then, the excess electricity is sent to the utility grid through the breaker box via the utility metre.

The utility meter measures the electricity flow from the grid to your property and from the property to your grid.

When the production of electricity from the solar energy system is more than your actual consumption, the utility metre runs backwards.

It then credits you for generating excess electricity, than you consume or need, through net metering.

 How to store solar energy

One of the fastest-growing energy sources, the Solar panel systems has gained immense popularity over the past few years.

As per the Solar Energy Industries Association, the expected solar market would be double in size by 2023 to a whopping 4.5 billion market.

This solar power popularity has paved way for solar batteries for the storage of solar energy.

Explore how Solar Energy is stored in the solar battery which is given below:-

  • The working and function of solar batteries are connected with the production of solar energy by the solar panels to be used later.
  • In certain cases, solar batteries might have their inverter through which then provide integrated energy conversion.
  • The storage volume of solar energy is directly proportional to the capacity of the battery.
  • By installing solar batteries as a component of the solar panel system, you become capable of storing the excess solar electricity rather than sending it back to the grid.
  • In case the solar panels produce electricity over your requirement or needs, the excess energy can be used towards battery charging.
  • In instances of solar panels not producing electricity, the energy stored in the solar batteries can be drawn for usage.
  • If the solar battery is fully charged, electricity can be sent back to the grid and it can be fetched from the grid when the battery is depleted.
  • This indicates that excess solar power can be stored for later usage alongside it serves as a short-term backup power.

Batteries are usually paired with the solar energy systems at homes but they can also be used by homeowners without solar panel systems.

The batteries can be charged with electricity directly from the grid for backup power purposes.

Top 10 solar energy companies in India

The solar power industry is one of the rapidly growing sectors not only in India but across the globe.

Various solar companies have taken the burden of making the planet a better place to live in the future.

The top 10 companies in India which are making efforts in the field of solar energy are as follows:-

Adani Power

Adani power is a leader of the solar projects in our country and has made a remarkable impact by establishing the Kamuthi solar power project.

Adani Power has its headquarters in Ahmedabad Gujarat and is the largest private Thermal Power producer in India.

Alongside, it holds the 73rd ranking of being the largest corporation in India in the 2018 list of Fortune India 500.

Adani Power was reported as a substantial solar project developer in 2018.

Tata Solar

One of the top 10 leading solar companies in India, Tata solar has its headquarters in Bengaluru.

Holding a market share of 5.6 %, Tata solar is amongst one of the oldest and largest solar panel manufacturers alongside being one of the significant solar rooftop EPC players.

Jinko Solar

Jinko Solar has contributed significantly towards driving the Indian solar market alongside grabbing a substantial market share in the solar sector of India.

With over 15,000 employees, six production facilities, and 16 overseas subsidiaries, Jinko has contributed towards building a vertically integrated solar product value chain.

Trina Solar

Carrying a belief that India has developed into a major solar market in the world, Trina Solar is taking substantial steps towards gaining solar expertise in India.

Also, it has been a leader in supplying the modules to India in terms of cumulative shipments and 1H in 2019.

ACME Solar

ACME Solar has its footsteps in 12 states in India alongside bagging massive projects since its inception into the Indian market. The company holds the largest project pipeline as of 2019 June.

Vikram Solar

Second largest of the solar energy companies in India, Vikram Solar was established in 2006 by Gyanesh Chaudhary in Kolkata, West Bengal.

The company was formerly known as Vikram Solar Pvt. Ltd has manufactures the high-efficiency PV module and EPC solutions.

Waaree Energies

Primarily a manufacturer of the Solar PV module, Waaree Energies has observed a significant demand from the Indian rooftop segment.

Based in Gujarat, the company has expanded the capacity of its module manufacturing by 500 megawatts making it to 2000 megawatt.

With its headquarters in Mumbai, the Waaree group was founded in 1989.

EMMVEE

Specializing in the production of high-quality photo wall tiles modules for on-grid and off-grid applications, EMMVEE has its manufacturing facilities in Bangalore.

It is known for manufacturing the highly reliable solar water heating Systems under the brand name ‘Solarizer’.

The company is working towards developing the future of solar energy in India. EMMVEE was founded in the year 1992 by M.V. ManjuNatha.

Kotak Urja Pvt Ltd

Kotak Urja Private Limited started its operations in the year 1997 with a technological equipped solar plant in Bangalore, Karnataka.

It was towards manufacturing the top solar panels in India alongside empowering the future of solar energy in the country.

Websol Energy System Ltd

One of the top 10 solar companies in India is Websol Energy System Limited. It was founded in 1994 in Kolkata and has a state-of-the-art integrated production facility in West Bengal, India.

It has various accolades and awards to its name along with having International certifications.

Websol energy is technologically independent of solar cells and models of the Solar Energy companies in India.

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