What is solar energy?

Solar energy is energy which is created from either the irradiation or heat energy within the sunlight radiated from the sun. Solar power is captured when energy from the sun is converted into electricity or used to heat air, water, or other fluids.

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The two most common uses of solar energy are:

Solar thermal

Solar Thermal

These systems convert sunlight into thermal energy (heat). Most solar thermal systems use solar energy for space heating or to heat water (such as in a solar hot water system). Solar hot water systems are to date the most common way that solar energy has been used by home owners in America.

The heat can also be used to make steam, which can then be used to generate electricity using steam turbines (Although let's not talk about that). It is considered more efficient to build solar thermal electricity generators at large scale, typically in the tens to hundreds of megawatts.

Solar photovoltaic

Solar Photovoltaic (PV)

The conversion of sunlight directly into electricity using photo-voltaic cells. In this process PV systems can be installed on rooftops, integrated into building designs and vehicles, or scaled up to megawatt scale power plants.