Solar energy is an energy resource that we can take advantage of anywhere on the planet. It can be captured through solar or photovoltaic cells and used for various purposes. We tell you what are the different types of solar panels and how you can use them to lower costs and take care of the environment.
Types of solar panels
In principle, we could establish a first great division in the use of solar energy: photovoltaic and thermal.
- The photovoltaic energy It is suitable for smaller-scale electrical projects, such as the installation of residential solar panels to provide electricity to a house.
- The solar thermal energy it is used for large-scale electricity production, but can also be used in a home. In this case, collectors are used that capture the heat of the sun. Then, this heat is transferred to the water that runs through some pipes and that can be used in this way for the sanitary installation (water for the bathroom or to clean the dishes) or to heat different spaces in the house.
This energy can be generated from the use of two different panel systems: photovoltaic and thermal. Let’s see How do solar panels work and the characteristics of each.
What is a photovoltaic solar panel
The photovoltaic solar panels They are devices that are used to absorb the energy from the sun’s rays and convert it into electricity. Each panel is made up of a set of photovoltaic cells (or solar), which can generate electricity. These cells are arranged in a grid pattern on the surface of the solar panels.
The solar cells They are small cells made of semiconductor materials, such as crystalline silicon or gallium arsenide, which can behave as conductors of electricity or as insulators, depending on their state.
As each solar cell is not capable of generating large amounts of energy on its own, it is necessary to combine several of them: in this way, a solar panel is formed. Therefore, a solar panel is actually a large plate on which many solar cells are packed together.
Types of photovoltaic panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single crystal of pure silicon, as the name implies. The technology they use is the oldest in this type of product, but it is also the most developed to date.
Being made of high-purity silicon, these panels achieve the highest efficiency rates and have a longer lifespan than other models. All this makes them a little more expensive than the rest.
The manufacturing process of polycrystalline photovoltaic panels is simpler, which means that their price is lower. Rather than go through a costly and time-consuming process, manufacturers simply put a crystal seed into a mold of molten silicon and allow it to cool; this is the reason why the crystal surrounding the seed is not uniform.
As their efficiency is lower, more panels are necessary to achieve the same electricity production, so it is necessary to have more space to locate them.
- Thin film photovoltaic solar panels
In this type of solar cells what is done is to deposit several layers of photovoltaic material on a base. This results in panels that are lighter in weight and generally immune to problems that arise when the sky is cloudy or something gets between the sun and the panel.
Their manufacturing process makes them more flexible, allowing them to adapt to multiple surfaces.
What is a solar thermal panel
Thermal solar panels have a simpler conformation: they contain a liquid inside that reacts to thermal radiation and ends up heating the water that circulates through tubes that are inside the panel.
The hot water is then preserved in a tank that all thermal panels have in the upper part of their structure. The stored water can be used at any time, even at night, either to heat the home or for sanitary use in bathrooms and kitchens.
Types of solar thermal panels
There are different size options and they allow you to heat water safely and efficiently, without resorting to the use of gas or electricity. There are two basic types of solar thermal panels:
- Flat thermal solar collector or panel
It is made up of a set of tubes covered with a transparent plate. Inside, in combination with the tubes, it has several layers of materials that are responsible for capturing thermal energy and a metal plate where the tubes through which the heated liquid circulates are welded.
It is the cheapest type of thermal panel on the market and, at first glance, can be similar to photovoltaic panels. Although they are very efficient when they receive direct and constant solar incidence, they quickly lose their capacity in situations of little sun.
- Evacuated tube collector or collector
It is a slightly more complex and more efficient system than flat collectors. known as solar heaters, these panels are made up of cylindrical vacuum tubes inside a glass box. These tubes are prepared to absorb heat in their first layer and then, thanks to their vacuum chamber, reduce heat loss to the limit.
This model is ideal for situations in which the sun’s rays do not directly affect the collector for an extended period of time.