Solar energy is a renewable and inexhaustible source that we are still not taking advantage of to its maximum capacity. It allows an efficient use of energy, taking into account the care of the environment. This type of clean energy is an alternative to the use of non-renewable energies such as fossil fuels or nuclear energy.
Uses and applications of solar panels and solar energy
We tend to associate the uses of the energy generated by solar panels with household chores, but during these years numerous investigations have been carried out to take advantage of the energy from the sun in other areas such as transport, agriculture, public lighting or even in the textile sector.
In this article, we want to show you how we can take advantage of solar energy applicable to different areas .
Uses of solar panels for housing
More and more people are opting for an installation of solar panels in the home , taking advantage of the inexhaustible resources of energy from the sun that will reduce dependence on electricity through the network, saving on the electricity bill and contributing to the environmental care.
The number of modules installed will depend on the energy consumed and the structure available on the roof. The orientation and inclination of the solar panels will also influence with the intention of generating the maximum possible electricity from the sun.
The use of solar panels for housing covers a large number of possibilities. We generally link its use to uses related to lighting or electrical appliances, but it also has other applications associated with heating or hot water. Therefore, solar energy will bring us great benefits through the installation of solar panels .
Among the most frequent uses of solar panels for home , we can find:
- Home appliances
- Hot water
- Radiating floor
- Swimming pool
- Outdoor lighting, such as a garden
Solar panels for water heating and heating
As we have previously mentioned, solar energy has numerous applications in the home, which are not only oriented towards lighting. Thanks to the solar radiation captured by the solar panels, it will be possible to heat the water for common use in the home and hot water for heating.
Below we show you the uses of solar panels for heating water and heating , as well as the operation of aerothermal energy as a new renewable source that can be used for these functions.
Solar panels for domestic hot water (DHW)
Solar energy is not only used to take advantage of lighting and electrical appliances in our homes. The use of solar panels extends and is associated with other aspects such as obtaining hot water at home.
Thanks to the high number of hours of sunshine that we have in Spain, opting for an installation of solar panels for heating water is a very profitable option that will reduce dependence on gas and keep the planet much cleaner.
But contributing to the production of domestic hot water (DHW) should not only be associated with homes, but can also cover other fields such as the service sector.
And how do solar panels work to generate hot water? They use solar radiation to heat the air or fluid that transports heat through the conductors and, subsequently, that heat will be transferred to the water stored in an accumulator. In this way, we will be able to make more efficient use of energy and significant savings on the electricity bill.
In conclusion, hot water from solar energy has numerous advantages , such as cost savings, pollution elimination, energy savings, low maintenance and cost, and the long useful life of solar panels, reaching last up to 25 years.
However, the problem with these installations is that they are for a single purpose and consume the space available on our roof to heat water. Photovoltaic solar panels, however, allow electricity to be generated not only to heat water, but also to run a washing machine, watch television, charge an electric car, and why not, run an electric water heater to heat that water. Its use is much broader.
Solar panels for heating
Heating is another of the multiple uses that solar energy offers us . Solar panels are capable of producing heat that will allow heating the water intended for heating or air production.
The installation of solar panels used for heating will allow at least 70% of the energy savings that will be associated with economic savings and that will be quickly reflected in the coldest winters and summer times with higher temperatures.
Any installation intended for home heating must have a plate exchanger, an essential device in air conditioning systems, which transfers heat between fluids, raising or lowering the temperature of one space or another.
Solar energy has an unquestionable adaptability. In the case of the heating system, we find three different procedures where we can perfectly apply the energy generated by sunlight. These are:
- Radiating floor
- heat pump
- convection heaters
On the other hand, the maintenance cost is quite low . It will be advisable to carry out annual reviews of the accumulation tank and keep the insulating rubbers in good condition so that profitability is always as high as possible. Also, keep the surface of the solar panels clean so that it does not affect the performance of the installation.
Underfloor heating with solar panels for heating
The technological advances developed in solar energy have allowed its uses to multiply considerably in different sectors. This is the case with radiant floors, which are managing to invade the position occupied by traditional radiators. Radiant floors are consolidated as the most efficient and comfortable heating system.
In order for us to understand the contributions that underfloor heating with solar panels can provide us, we are going to put the operation of traditional radiators into context, analyzing the weak points of this system.
The traditional radiator that we all know, heats only the layer of air that is in contact with the surface, therefore, that air rises upwards and remains accumulated in the upper part without being adequately distributed throughout the room and heating home after a long period of time. Specifically, a temperature of approximately 70º will be necessary if we want our house to be hot enough to achieve optimal comfort.
On the other hand, radiant floor heating works in reverse, that is, the heat is transmitted from the floor and distributed evenly throughout the house without having to wait too long to notice the heat. In this case, it will be enough for the water to reach approximately 40º for the desired temperature to be produced. All this leads to obvious savings, making underfloor heating gain ground over classic radiators.
Aerothermics and solar panels for water heating
The combination of aerothermal energy with solar panels allows the temperature of the home to be regulated using sustainable and natural resources. But what does this renewable source really consist of? Aerothermal energy obtains energy from the air to obtain domestic hot water and reach the ideal temperature depending on the season of the year, allowing the temperature to be reduced in summer and the perfect temperature to reach maximum comfort in winter.
Aerothermal works through a fundamental element, the aerothermal heat pump. Its function is to extract energy from the air and transport it to the circuit of the house, achieving a high efficiency of the system from an ecological and sustainability-oriented approach.
In addition, it is capable of exceeding a saving of 60% if we compare it with other air conditioning systems. This data allows it to gain positions and position itself as another renewable energy alternative .
Solar panels for swimming pools
Keeping the pool heated is a fairly high cost of electricity that can be fixed thanks to the energy provided by the sun. The installation of solar panels for swimming pools will allow you to take advantage of the sun’s radiation to heat the water and enjoy bathing for a longer period of time, being a much more ecological and beneficial alternative for the world. Let us not also forget the significant energy savings that we will achieve.
The elements necessary to heat the pool water with solar panels are:
- Solar collector. Through this device the water circulates through the pool to be heated with solar energy
- Filter. Remove debris from the pool
- Bomb. Element that allows the water to circulate through the filter and the collector to later return to the pool
- Flow control valve. Diverts water through the collector. This device can be automatic or manual.
Solar panels installed in swimming pools use both direct and diffuse solar radiation. Therefore, although the climate of the municipality or city where you reside is not characterized by having a large number of hours of sunshine per year, it will be equally profitable. In addition, the maintenance cost is practically imperceptible.
In conclusion, solar panels for swimming pools make it possible to reduce savings through clean energy and reduce dependence on electricity from polluting sources, such as oil, on a large scale.
solar energy and transportation
The application of solar energy in transport is still in the development phase, but its use can already be found in electric cars and caravans or even in public transport such as buses and trains.
Next, we will delve into the main uses of solar panels in the different current means of transport.
Solar panels for electric cars
There is a constant search to implement clean energy in the mobility sector, leaving behind polluting sources that are harmful in many aspects.
In the case of the automotive sector, one of the main problems that we find today is the battery. The dependency on the need to recharge the electric car in its own charging facilities and the dubious origin of the source have led several manufacturers to create new prototypes that use solar energy, promoting the transition towards greater sustainability with the purpose of bringing cars with solar panels to the market in the medium term.
And how can you fix battery dependency? The answer lies in solar panels and electric cars . These panels are generally installed on the roof of the electric car and the energy is stored in the battery or applied directly to the motor.
Thanks to the thickness of the 0.03 mm thick solar panels that car brands are developing, the installation is not only limited to the roof, but also allows them to be placed on other surfaces of the car such as the hood or other areas of the bodywork. , being able to maintain the aesthetics and the resistance to possible blows.
Despite the enormous efficiency that photovoltaic solar panels have in charging electric cars , they will be unfeasible on certain roads due to the continuous lack of sunlight and the vehicles will still have to depend on electric charging facilities.
Currently, some manufacturers are offering solar panel kits for homes with plugs included that we can use to charge electric cars, thus promoting the use of solar energy and self-consumption. We must know the daily consumption generated by the vehicle to contract one power or another. Also, the weather will influence and even the available hours that we have to charge it, that is, it is not the same if we are at home during the day that will allow a greater charge or if we do it in hours close to night when there is hardly any light. solar.
But the advances do not stop here because China will develop by 2022 a road with installed solar panels that will allow electric vehicles to be charged automatically and circulate completely independently.
Solar panels for caravans
Solar panels are also valid for larger vehicles. For road lovers who like to travel in a caravan and want to be self-sufficient, solar panels are a very good investment to achieve autonomy and energy freedom , generating free electricity wherever you go.
Currently, solar panels are already installed in almost all motorhomes purchased in Spain, being a factor that has gained relevance in recent years. Despite this, many users are unaware of the number of panels needed to endure long trips, where almost all consumption is carried out, practically, in the vehicle, including charging the battery itself or charging elements for mobile phones, light or appliances.
Normally, the most common solar panels for caravans are 12V, but the installation of one power or another will basically depend on the consumption made.
The orientation of panels in motorhomes cannot be controlled, therefore, the incidence of sunlight will depend on the route taken, not constantly receiving the same number of hours of sunlight. Therefore, they can reach 60%-70% of their capacity .
solar panels for airplanes
The fight against climate change has also been taken very seriously by the aeronautical sector. New technologies have made it possible to develop improvements in batteries and charging systems so that solar-generated electricity on aircraft is a fact that we may see in the near future, whether for commercial flights or not.
Citizens are increasingly aware of how we contribute with our actions towards a more sustainable world, where caring for the environment plays a very important role. For this reason, airplanes have been in the spotlight lately.
An airplane emits up to 391 grams of CO2, that is, it pollutes 50 times more per kilometer and passenger than a train. According to the European Commission, approximately 4% of greenhouse gases come from flights that have increased on the European continent. That is why aircraft manufacturers are developing new technologies that are committed to the clean energies of the future, where the use of solar energy stands out .
European companies such as Airbus have created aircraft prototypes with solar panelsaround its entire surface, operating solely on solar energy and managing to stay in the air for a period of approximately 26 days. This aircraft is designed exclusively for unmanned travel, but the development of commercial flights powered by photovoltaic solar panels continues unabated.
Solar panels for electric bicycles
The number of electric bicycles has grown considerably in recent years in many cities, specifically, by 2023 they could reach 300 million bicycles, that is, 50% compared to last year, according to the latest study on 2020 predictions carried out by Deloitte . We could even be talking about an alternative to the car, thanks to its comfort and reduced space for short trips.
Electric bicycle and solar energy are two terms that go together perfectly. Solar energy plays a very important role in this aspect because it will solve the charging problem and take advantage of sunlight for vehicle operation, installing solar panels on the surface of electric bicycles . In this way, we will achieve a more sustainable and ecological means of transport.
There are models developed by companies in the sector that include LED screens, allowing to know the status of the battery and other data related to the path traveled. Other electric bicycles have assisted pedaling (helps the user to make less effort when pedaling), and can reach 25 km/h .
Even companies in the Netherlands, the second European country with the highest use of bicycles, have created a kit that allows electric bicycles to be easily charged with solar energy. Also, solar panels are being installed on the rims of bicycles in order to charge the battery while we are in motion.
solar panels for boats
The revolution of renewable energies and solar panels have also reached the shipping sector.
People who have a sailing or motor boat at their disposal can also install solar panels for their boats, taking advantage of the potential of solar energy . It is a highly recommended option because it will allow greater autonomy to be achieved, more assiduously avoiding connections to ports and increasing the period of time spent at sea.
As in any other means of transport, it is necessary to know the consumption that is made to install one power or another, and thus find out the number of solar panels according to the energy demand of each one. In this case, the infrastructure of the ships is also another factor to take into account for the installation of solar panels , since space is much more limited than on other surfaces.
The necessary elements for an installation of solar panels on a boat are:
- the modules themselves
- a charge controller
- One or more batteries
We can install the solar panels on the highest part of the boat, but there is an alternative that is becoming more widespread and used by boaters: flexible solar panels . They are perfect for the curved extensions of the vehicle and can even be incorporated into the ground, without affecting the performance of the solar panels even though we are on them. Also, they are very resistant thanks to the Teflon that it incorporates, a material characterized by its great resistance to hot climates.
Public lighting with solar panels
Municipalities in Spanish territory are beginning to implement solar energy in public lighting , which will illuminate highways, urban areas, buildings, outdoor events or even zebra crossings.
Lighting is generated through the use of devices called luminaries.
But what is a luminary? It is a lighting device that is made up of three elements: LED lamp, solar panel and rechargeable battery. During the day, the lights are charged with solar energy and turn on automatically at night thanks to the energy stored in the batteries, providing electricity for a greater or lesser time, depending on the number of hours of sunlight it has received throughout the day. day.
The useful life of these devices can exceed 5 years and it is not necessary to channel public lighting, allowing access to areas where there are no wiring networks. In this way, considerable energy savings will be achieved.
Spain has already begun to implement this technology in some geographical areas of the country. This is the case with the municipality of Estepona which, by installing solar panels in public lighting, has managed to save €160,000 a year in electricity and a significant reduction of 20% in energy consumption .
Thanks to the installation of solar panels for public lighting , the dependency on the electricity grid infrastructure will be drastically reduced. In addition, maintenance is very low and will allow reaching more unpopulated areas where they do not have lighting, always respecting the planet.
Solar panels for irrigation
Water scarcity is an inescapable fact that we can change with the use of renewable energies. Numerous areas of Spanish territory suffer from this basic good, but the possibility of changing it depends on us, leaving fossil fuel sources behind and moving towards a cleaner world.
Currently, 70% of the land found in Spain is exploited through drip or sprinkler irrigation systems. These structures use a lot of water for crops and energy costs are quite high. This situation can change thanks to the use of solar energy that will make optimal use of water .
In recent years, there have been great technological advances in irrigated agriculture, with the installation of solar panels for irrigation becoming increasingly common . Its installation will reduce the energy consumption of the irrigation system, being one of the primary activities that spends the most energy.
Solar irrigation is here to stay and will allow the agricultural sector to change globally. The operation of the systems is practically the same as traditional irrigation, the only difference we find is the origin of the energy that feeds the solar pump. The installation of solar panels for irrigation has made it possible to take advantage of an unlimited source such as photovoltaic solar energy , reducing electricity costs and water scarcity.
Solar panels in mobiles and other electronic devices
When you think of smartphones, what would be the first inconvenience that comes to mind? Surely you are thinking about the battery, and this element decreases its duration year after year, allowing you to use the mobile without charging for 1 day or a maximum of 2.
We Spaniards use mobile phones for a daily average of 2 hours and 16 minutes, which has increased by 2 hours and 18 minutes during confinement, reaching a daily use of 4 and a half hours, as shown by the latest study carried out by Wiko. Due to the number of apps and features we use on our smartphones, the battery drains in record time. They are not adapted to withstand the use we give them.
But there are new sustainable and ecological models that are still in the development phase and will be a great alternative in the near future, including solar panels on the back of the mobile, with the aim of solving the battery problem and thus enjoying a greater autonomy.
Solar energy will not only reach mobile phones, but also other devices such as tablets, computers, smartwatches or even music speakers.
Solar energy in the textile industry
A latest development coming from Nottingham Trent University has shown that solar energy can also be applied to the textile industry . How? Inserting small solar cells that could transform wearable energy as we know it today.
These mini solar panels would be integrated into the thread used to weave the garments and, in addition, they are adhered to a resin that allows them to be washed without affecting the performance of said solar panels .
We talk about mini solar panels because they are almost imperceptible to the human eye due to their 3 mm length and 1.5 mm width, generating electricity while we are in motion and making it possible to charge our devices such as mobile phones. The wearable or portable solar energy
revolution is imminent. The advances do not stop and solar energy in the textile world is spreading , being applied not only to the most common garments in our day to day, but also to swimsuits or even accessories such as bags or backpacks.
Solar powered elevators
The revolution in the construction industry is already a reality. Solar energy also reaches elevators to adapt to new environmental regulations and achieve energy savings that will benefit all citizens.
There are new projects developed by Spanish companies that are including energy accumulators in elevators , managing to save 96% on the electricity bill and reduce emissions by 86% in the first models, eliminating emissions completely in the second models of most recently tested elevators.
The world is moving towards more frequent use of renewable energy, seeking alternatives to replace fossil fuels that pollute so much and harm both the environment and the health and well-being of all citizens. Solar panels play a key role in this change due to their versatility in terms of the number of uses and the green and renewable energy they produce.