What Are Solar Energy Receivers?

The Most Comprehensive DIY Solar Panel GuideQuestion: I’m curious about the solar energy technologies that are out there, but I’m not familiar with all of them. What are solar energy receivers?

Answer: Solar energy receivers capture the sunlight’s energy and transform it into heat. This heat is then used to convert water into steam, which can be used to drive a turbine and that generates electricity.

Solar energy receivers are typically used in large-scale power plants which produce enough electricity to power entire communities. The advantage of these solar thermal power plants over tradition power plants is the unlimited amount of free sunlight available. A large-scale solar thermal power plant using solar energy receivers can generate in the neighborhood of 200 Megawatts (MW) annually, which can power around 100,000 homes.

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Solar energy receivers use parabolic mirrors and special varieties of anti-reflective glass to convert the sun’s powerful rays of light into heat. This heat is captured and used to raise the temperature of a chemical liquid to over 750 degrees Fahrenheit. This amount of heat can then quickly convert water into steam.

An alternative to solar energy receivers are PV solar panels. PV solar panels can be used in large-scale power plants in great numbers, as well in much smaller arrays comprising one solar system used by one household. PV solar panels use the conductive properties of silicon to convert the sun’s energy into electricity, which is used directly by the household, or stored in a small array of batteries for later use.

PV solar panel kits are available as DIY home projects, for the mechanically inclined consumer, while solar receivers are still typically used on a large-scale basis for power plants.

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