HOW DOES SOLAR THERMAL TECHNOLOGY WORK?


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Energy from the sun has long been used as an alternative and renewable power source for both domestic and industrial applications. From solar cooking to the operation of massive technologies, both PV and solar thermal have been part of the process.

While PV deals with solar panels and cells to produce electric current, solar thermal energy involves the collection of the sun’s radiation to create both high and low temperature steams for power applications. The collection makes use of Röhrenkollektor mirrors and other materials with a reflective surface to be able to concentrate solar radiation to a central boiler that will receive and convert it to energy.

The types of collectors are the parabolic dish, the line-focus parabolic concentrator and the central receiver system. The parabolic dish concentrates and directs solar radiation to a single point to produce a temperature of 1000°C or more. The line-focus parabolic concentrator focuses on a single axis to produce a temperature of 350°C. On the other hand, the central receiver system makes use of mirrors that concentrates and the directs solar radiation to a central boiler to produce high temperature.

When the high temperature is produced from solar energy, the steam enables the operation of turbines for generators and chemical processes. Low temperature thermal systems, on the other hand, cater more to domestic and industrial applications such as pool heating, heating for greenhouses, offices and homes, solar cooking, crop drying, and desalinations, to name a few.

There are two types of solar thermal systems. These are passive and active systems. Passive systems refers to the collection of solar radiation that does not need pumps, motors, and other materials. In most cases, a house or a building will be the collector of radiation itself and will direct the solar energy to the heating of a home, for instance. The active system, on the other hand, makes use of pumps and tubes in the process of water circulation. The tubes used for the active solar heating system are made of copper that are bonded with a metal plate and are also encapsulated within a glass panel with an insulated box.

The development of the solar heating energy system along with other forms of solar energy systems are continued to be studied and researched on because experts want to explore more on the bigger potentials of the said technology not only on industrial applications but also on the possibility of environmental risks if in a wider and larger scale.

Solar Thermal Installations Rise in Popularity

The solar thermal industry of the United States experienced a period of noteworthy growth in 2008. With the Great Recession in full force by 2009, the economic situation began to worsen causing consumer spending to decrease as well as a decrease of demand in the solar thermal industry. In 2010, the solar thermal industry slowly recuperated and encountered an optimistic growth in which solar thermal installations began to rise in popularity. Consumers realized that solar thermal installations are a very efficient technology that greatly improve the return on investment and increases their property’s value.

A new innovation in the solar industry that caught many consumers’ eyes is the growing trend towards combination solar hot water and home heating systems. These systems are custom-made to fit each home’s sizes and needs and require well-accustomed system designers and installers.

Heating and hot water are proven to be the largest consumers of energy in homes. The combination solar hot water and home heating systems help reduce a home’s energy use and contribute to a reduction in energy bills; however, the combination systems are difficult to design and install since homes vary in size and have different needs. Installers often face challenges integrating equipment into a cost-efficient solar thermal combination system for homes.

“Unfamiliarity with these components or system design increases the time required to build a project and contributes to the overall costs hurting the customer’s return on investment and potentially jeopardizing the project completely,” said Nigel Rudell, vice president of operations at Apricus Inc., and Eric Skiba, technical engineer at Apricus Inc. Therefore, the solar industry requires a well-trained workforce to take on the challenges of design and installation.

The solar industry is currently experiencing steady growth, and it is important that workers wanting to enter this industry receive on-site solar training in order to make the solar industry meet its anticipated growth rate in future years. Workers need to make sure combination solar hot water and home heating systems work efficiently, and only the most adequate solar installation training will allow for this to occur. Being trained at a solar training school produces a workforce that is ready to take on the challenges of solar installation and design. The solar thermal industry requires workers to attend solar installation courses to be considered as having the knowledge, skills and abilities needed towards performing the job correctly.

“As demand for these systems increases, a lack of knowledgeable installers could hamper market growth, creating a niche market of installers. Training sessions will help grow a network of competent installers capable of designing and Röhrenkollektoren installing these systems, meeting anticipated industry growth,” continued Rudell and Skiba. “To help achieve market acceptance, the entire industry must put an emphasis on providing adequate solutions and training so that distributors and their installers have access to materials and products that allow them to design a system with confidence.”


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