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.
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 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 Photovoltaic 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