Solar Thermal Energy

Renewable or alternative energy sources are proposed as a solution to the energy problems suffered by the world's population today. This time, we come to talk about solar thermal energy, know a little better its definition and see the uses What is solar thermal energy?

Solar thermal energy consists of the use of solar energy to produce heat. Once we have the heat, we can use it for anything we may be interested in. For example, it can be used for cooking, hot water production or heating. It is even possible to transform this heat into mechanical energy and through this to obtain electrical energy. In short, a lot of different uses that allow us to save a good amount of money on our electricity bill and that in turn allows us to have a clear conscience due to the zero pollution it produces.

Types of solar thermal energy

Like many other elements of the home, depending on the particular needs of each one, we will have one type or another. In this sense, it is the same with solar thermal energy. To use solar thermal energy for our domestic and industrial use, we will have to have a solar thermal collector and in this case, there are three different models, depending on the temperature used:

- Low temperature thermal energy, if the required temperature is lower than 65ºC.

- Medium temperature thermal energy, if the application temperature is between 80 and 250ºC.

- Finally, the largest of all, the high temperature collector, will be for applications with temperatures above 500º. The latter is usually used for power generation.

When choosing a collector, it is necessary to discern whether the use will be domestic or industrial. In addition, in the case of electricity generation, medium and high temperature systems will be chosen.

How to take advantage of this energy at home

One of the most important aspects that many people look for in these renewable energies is to save a good amount of money at the end of the month. In this sense, to look for alternatives, solar thermal energy fulfills quite well.

For example, one of the most demanded uses is to heat water. Domestic hot water using a heat pump is practically a must inside a home. This water can be perfectly used for cooking, showering and washing with it. To decide on the type of collector, it must be sized according to the consumption to be had. Aspects such as number of family members, appliances that use hot water or type of use will be taken into account.

In addition to water, more and more household appliances have solar back-up panels that they use to harness this energy from the sun. Thus, thermal energy is produced with some of its functions. It is common for example to see it in some boilers of new technology and this makes the boiler has a higher energy efficiency. This drastically reduces the consumption of light produced by heating water.

Finally, another aspect of this solar thermal energy is its use for heating. Many appliances take advantage of this energy to produce heat. As it happens in the same example of the thermos, the electrical consumption is much lower. This is due to the fact that thermal energy is used instead, achieving an equally efficient heating at a much lower cost.

Another example is a solar thermal oven, which can be easily made at home. This type of use makes cooking an ecological and healthy way that can help you and the environment. In addition, there are other types of industrial ovens with other applications.

The application of solar thermal energy in the industry

Just like domestic economies, companies are looking for alternative ways to generate a bit of savings that will end up translating into higher profits month after month. In this sense, more and more companies are advocating an investment in this energy. By which, they place a good amount of solar panels, enough in some cases to replace and in others to complement other energy sources.

As it is a renewable energy, with the passage of time the solar panels are easily amortized and the savings achieved are quite significant.

On the other hand, it is worth mentioning solar thermal power plants for electricity generation. These plants concentrate solar energy in a receiver, through concentrators such as heliostats. All the concentrated thermal energy is used in a heat exchanger for direct use or for electricity generation. This can be done by means of, for example, a turbine.

There are also other elements such as Stirling dishes, parabolic trough collectors or Fresnel reflectors. These elements are also used for heat or electricity generation. However, these installations are less common for electricity generation than in the case of photovoltaic-based energy. The main reason is the efficiency of these installations, as well as energy storage.

The advantages of solar thermal energy

We cannot finish the article on solar thermal energy without finally referring to the advantages it has when it is used. In this sense, three major advantages can be included.

Firstly, one that we have been referring to throughout the article, which is the savings involved in using this energy source. Solar thermal energy is an energy source that ends up being very economical compared to other sources. In addition, it can also be easily transformed into the one we need most, as may be the case of electricity.

Last but not least, the impact it has on pollution is null, as it is a renewable and clean energy. In addition, the maintenance of the same is quite simple since the solar panels have a long useful life. If any repair is necessary, the breakdown is always much simpler and less expensive than any other energy source that we can use.