Applications of Solar Energy

I’m a strong advocate of the benefits of solar energy — I’m waiting for the breakthroughs (like the microprocessor/PC in computing) that will revolutionize energy production. Here’s a summary of the current state of solar energy.

Link: A Solar Technology for Every Application | Alternative Energy Stocks

Tom Konrad at Alternative Energy Stocks writes:

To understand the future of any technology, you first need to understand its applications, which will lead to an understanding of the characteristics necessary to meet them. Broadly, solar power is used to produce heat for climate control and process heat, and for electricity, both on the grid and off.

Application Table

Application Category Dominant/Best Technology Other Technologies
Daylighting Lighting Windows, Skylights Light Shelves, Active systems
Space Heating Thermal Passive Solar Design Active solar thermal, especially if also used for other applications such as water heating.
Process heat/ Water heating Thermal Active Solar Thermal flat plate or evacuated tube
Distributed generation Electric Photovoltaic technologies
Off Grid Electric Non-tracking PV with battery backup
Central Power Generation Electric Concentrating Solar Power Concentrating PV, Flat plate PV
Dispatchable Power Electric CSP with thermal storage Others w/ battery backup
Intermediate Generation Electric All technologies, should be tracking or west-facing to make production align most closely to peak load.
Base load Generation Electric CSP with thermal storage Others w/ Battery backup

Electric Generation Technology Table

Technology Best uses Strengths Weaknesses
    Flat Plate Distributed, off grid Simplicity, Scalability Cost
       Crystalline Distributed Low maintenance, high durability Cost
       Thin Film Distributed, off grid Low cost; scalability Low efficiency
    Concentrating PV Sunny areas, Central installations Low cost Higher maintenance
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)
     Solar Trough, CLFR, Solar tower Central Generation; peaking and intermediate power; base load capable. Thermal Storage, Cost Large Scale
     Dish Stirling Sunny areas, Central installations Low cost; can be hybridized with natural gas; Scalability Higher maintenance

DISCLAIMER: The information and trades provided here are for informational purposes only