Being an unlimited source of energy, Sun has a huge potential of serving as the ultimate source of power production. Though a very small part of this energy has been tapped in past, the research & development all over the World has evolved into commercially available technologies to explore sun as an energy source.
Two out of many available technologies used today on commercial scale are Solar Thermal and Solar Photovoltaic. Working on completely different concepts, they are fulfilling various needs in different endeavours.
Solar thermal technology
The system works on the mechanism of converting solar energy into thermal energy which can further serve numerous areas in terms of energy requirements like water heating, air conditioning, crop drying, water purification and many others.
Commercial scale power generation is possible through huge collector surfaces. These are specially designed from the purpose of concentrating maximum amount of solar radiations to metal surface.
A basic flat plate solar collector comprises of metal collector surface covered by antireflective coating and transparent cover on top along with fluid carrying pipes at bottom. The setup is enclosed in an insulated coating to minimize the escape of heat captured during the process of solar radiation exchange. Since the energy produced usually doesn't get used immediately, they have a storage systems attached for back-up.
Solar photovoltaic systems
Solar Photovoltaic Systems work on the principle of photovoltaic effect where solar energy is converted directly to electrical energy. Photovoltaic effect occurs due to generation of electromotive force due to absorption of light energy.
The primary structure of a solar photovoltaic system comprises of photovoltaic cell which were initially contained semiconductor material. Semiconductors show amazing photovoltaic effect because of comparatively smaller difference between their valance and conduction bands. In photovoltaic cells this phenomenon is further increased by doping of impurities in semiconductors that increases the charge carriers in them, thereby further increasing the electromotive force.
The development of material used in photovoltaic cells has undergone tremendous advancements in past where it has moved from the usage silicon crystalline cells to the usage of multi-junction and dye-sensitize cells used today. Though the industry has encouraged the usage of various material developed over time, crystalline technology still occupies a major market share.
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