Solar Panels vs. Solar Thermal Technology Explained

You've probably heard the term “solar power,” but do you know what it means? Passive solar, active solar, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, and concentrating solar power are all terms used to describe energy derived from the sun. As a prospective solar owner, it's important to understand the difference between these terms to determine what kind of solar system to get. Along with knowing the different types of solar technology, it helps to understand how solar power is collected and converted into energy. Passive solar technology requires no equipment. Instead, it refers to simple measures homeowners can take to make their homes collect more sunlight, such as installing south-facing windows and skylights. Active solar uses technological devices, such as panels and solar water heaters, to collect and distribute energy from the sun. Of the three types of solar technology, photovoltaics and thermal are used most often in residential and commercial settings, while concentrating solar power is used on an industrial scale. Since photovoltaics and thermal both use energy from the sun and both save money, how do you decide what to get?

Solar Panels

Solar panels are used in solar photovoltaics (PV) systems. PV is the most popular type of solar power in the US. Solar PV systems can be mounted to a rooftop, placed in a field, or built on a canopy over a parking lot, called a carport. Solar PV, which is used to produce electricity, is the most common type of solar energy Las Vegas. At the end of 2015, solar panels in Las Vegas collectively produced 129 MW of power. PV systems gather energy from the sun through solar panels made of either silicon or thin-film materials. While they're made of different materials, all solar panels convert the sun's light into electricity. PV systems range in size from small 5KW residential systems to large commercial systems that can reach 1MW or more in size. All PV systems can generate revenue and significantly reduce or eliminate the electric bills on the properties where they're placed.

Solar Thermal

The second type of non-industrial active solar technology is solar thermal. Unlike solar PV systems, solar thermal systems do not generate electricity. Instead, they use mirrors to capture the sun's energy, which is then used to heat water and air. Solar thermal is more common in colder regions, like the Northeast, where the expense of heating a house is higher than it is in the Southwest. Like most solar PV systems, solar thermal systems are mounted on the roof. However, they are much smaller than a solar PV system, which makes them ideal for rooftops with limited space. With the potential to transform 90% of solar radiation into heat, solar thermal systems are highly efficient.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to get solar panels Las Vegas or solar thermal is a personal choice. Both technologies are eligible for incentives and rebates. A solar PV system will cut your electric costs, while a solar thermal system will offset heat and hot water expenses. Some homes and businesses use both technologies. If you aren't sure which one is best for you, ask a professional solar installer for advice and quotes.

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