Types of Solar Energy

By Anne Clarke

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Solar energy comes in many forms. The majority of us are most familiar with solar cells, but there are actually many different ways to create and store solar energy. Here are a few of those ways:

  1. Solar Cells - Most of us have seen solar cells used on calculators with LCD's. But they have also been used in many other ways. Solar cells use semiconductors (oftentimes, silicon) to generate electricity, directly from the sunlight.
  2. Solar Fibers - This is also a photovoltaic device (like the solar cells), only it does not use silicon. Rather, it has a solar tape that is made with titanium dioxide. This tape could actually be combined with building materials or even clothing.
  3. Solar Pond - A solar pond is made of three layers: the top layer as low salt content. The middle layer is an insulating layer with salt, and it prevents natural convection in the water (which would normally cause heat exchange). The bottom layer as a very high salt content, and this layer can approach high temperatures. Because of all the densities in salt of the different layers, there are no convection currents (which normally transfer heat to the surface and then the air). The heat that gets trapped in the bottom layer can be used to heat buildings, generate electricity, or in industrial processes.
  4. Solar Chemical - There are a number of different solar energy processes that absorb sunlight in a chemical reaction to create that solar energy. More research is needed on solar chemical energy before we can apply it practically. Much of this research is on photoelectrolysis of water.
  5. Solar Updraft Tower - This is a type of solar energy plant in which air passes under an agricultural glass house, gets heated by the sun, and is then channel up toward a convection tower. It is used to drive turbines which generate electricity.
  6. Energy Tower - This tower uses water, unfortunately, but it is also a good design and works in a similar way to the solar updraft tower. Water is sprayed at the top of the water. The water evaporates which causes a downdraft by cooling the air. This coolness increases the density of the air and then drives turbines that are at the bottom of the tower.

These are just a few ways in which solar energy has been and is being created. Perhaps the most common household type of solar energy is that created by solar cells. Nonetheless, these other types are very promising and certainly have their place.

Anne Clarke writes numerous articles for websites on gardening, parenting, the environment, fashion, and home decor. Her background includes teaching and gardening. For more of her articles on solar power, please visit Solar Home.

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