Solar power is an intermittent energy source, meaning that solar power is not available at all times, and is normally supplemented by storage or another energy source, for example with wind power and hydropower. Solar technology is most often used in remote locations, although it is becoming more popular in urban areas as well.
Solar power is produced by collecting sunlight and converting it into electricity. To create solar power, there are two types of solar technology, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP).
Photovoltaics were initially used to power small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to off-grid homes powered by a photovoltaic array.
Concentrated solar power normally focuses the sun's energy to boil water which is then used to provide power, and other technologies, such as the sterling engine dishes which use a sterling cycle engine to power a generator.
Commercial CSP plants were first developed in the 1980s, and the 354 MW SEGS CSP installation is currently the largest solar power plant in the world and is located in the Mojave Desert of California. The 80 MW Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant in Canada, is currently the world’s largest photovoltaic plant.
Experimental approaches to solar power use different types of solar technology include concentrated photovoltaics systems, thermovoltaic devices, and space-based solar power.
For more solar technology articles, view some of our other blog posts.