Solar energy is a broad term for different types of renewable energy. These types are united by the fact that they are ultimately derived from the power of the sun. When most people talk about solar power, they are talking about photovoltaic cells and solar panels. Solar thermal energy is different, and manages to utilize the power of the sun in a whole new way.
Solar panels have been in use for decades by this point. While many people still feel as if they’re woefully inefficient, solar panels have more than doubled in terms of their efficiency over the course of the last forty years. Scientists have created photovoltaic cells that have more than twenty percent efficiency, which allows them to harvest a great deal of the incoming sunlight, converting it into energy that is actually usable in commercial processes.
It is true that photovoltaic cells fluctuate in terms of their efficacy based on the level of sunlight in a day. However, since the new solar cells are much more efficient, it is easier for solar panels to still get some energy even from the cloudier days of the week and in cloudier climates. Battery technology and smart grid technology is also making it that much easier for people to still get energy even on cloudy days, because they are able to store all of the energy harvested during the brightest days of the year.
Solar thermal energy is different in that it works based on the heat of the sun as opposed to the light of the sun. It involves focusing the light and heat of the sun and using that heat in order to power a machine that runs on heat, thus converting the sun’s heat into energy that is going to be usable in commercial processes. The sun produces plenty of heat even on seemingly cold days, so solar thermal energy has a great deal of potential when it comes to offering consistent levels of power to a populace in need of stable renewable energy resources.
The financial potential of solar energy, including photovoltaic cells and solar thermal energy, is tremendous. The hardest part of the process by this point is implementation. Many people are still struggling to get solar power into their neighborhoods. Traditionalism rules, and many people are under the impression that solar energy is inefficient in spite of the decades of development that have all but transformed solar power. Other people just don’t like the look of solar cells, even though no one is asking them to put the solar cells on their own homes.
All forms of renewable energy face a great deal of competition from the oil industry, which is making it that much harder for these better and more efficient forms of power to get ahead in the marketplace. However, in an age of increasing environmental concern and awareness and as solar energy becomes even more efficient, it is going to be that much harder for oil companies to serve as viable competition for the fossil fuel industry.