With the advancements in its technology that is taking place nowadays, we tend to hear the term ‘solar energy’ or ‘solar power’ a lot. But what is solar energy? As simply as it is, it is energy that is harnessed from sunlight. This could be done either via radiant light or simply heat.
We can broadly split solar energy into three main technology types, these are: photovoltaic (PV), concentrated solar power (CSP), and concentrated photovoltaic (CPV).
Photovoltaic is possibly the most solar technology you have seen around, even though the bigger solar power plants are usually dependent on concentrated solar power technology. PV is the method of generating electrical power by converting the radiation from the sun intro DC electricity using the photovoltaic effect, which is the creation of voltage in a semiconductor upon exposure of light.
CSP is a system that uses mirrors or lenses to concentrate the large area of solar thermal energy onto a small area. This concentrated solar thermal energy is converted to heat, which in turn drives a heat engine connected to a power generator. CSP is being widely commercialized because it’s offer simpler technology and better efficiency.
CPV uses lenses or curved mirror to concentrate a large amount of light on a small area of PV cells to generate the electricity required. CPV has an advantage over normal PV, since a smaller area (number of cells) are required to generate the same amount of electricity, more expensive high-efficiency solar cells could be used instead. Generally speaking, CPV is far less common than standard PV modules.
Unlike fossil fuel based technologies, solar power does not lead to any harmful emissions during operation, but the production of the technology that develops these systems has still not been perfected so the production of panels leads to some amount of pollution.
What is currently considered the biggest flaw of solar energy so far is storing methods of the energy that is generated by the sun. Solar energy is not available at night, which makes storage a very important issue in order to provide the continuous availability of energy.
Thanks to the advancement in science and technology that you can harvest solar energy at night! So, do solar panels work at night? The answer is, yes. Solar batteries store enough solar power during the day that can be used at night or during climatic conditions, like rains, hail, etc.
Therefore, sometimes solar energy is referred to as an intermittent energy source.