A solar panel is made up of a pack of photovoltaic cells. It can be used in larger photovoltaic systems to generate and supply electricity for residential and other commercial applications. The solar radiation falling directly on the solar panel is converted into direct current electricity.
On the other hand, a solar collector collects heat by directly absorbing sunlight. It consists of a collector that converts the energy from sunlight into a more usable form of energy. Solar collectors can be referred to as solar parabolic devices for more complex installations and solar air thermal for less complex installations. More complex collectors are used in solar power plants to heat water to produce steam, which in turn drives a turbine connected to a generator to produce electricity. Less complex collectors, however, are used for supplemental space heating in commercial and residential buildings.
Most solar panels have an efficiency of about 11-15%. Panel efficiency is measured by the amount of sunlight that hits the panel, which in turn is converted into electricity. Solar panels with a small surface area are highly efficient. The efficiency of the panels is also affected by the orientation of the panels, the pitch or tilt of the roof and panels, the temperature and the shading of the roof.
The performance of a solar collector depends on the following criteria.
Area of the solar collector
The total amount of solar radiation incident on the collector
The tilted position of the collector and the orientation of the collector.
However, the efficiency of a solar collector is influenced by several factors such as heat gain, surface area, conversion factor and heat loss through conduction and convection. The low temperature solar collector model operates at high efficiency levels when the temperature difference is between 5 and 30°C (41 and 86°F), while the medium temperature model operates when the temperature difference is between 15 and 200°C (59 and 392°F).
Solar Power - Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Power
How Origin's Solar Power Purchase Agreement Helps More Businesses Go Solar
Differences in Life Stages Critical to Stability of Complex Ecological Communities
Key benefits of solar panels include the following.
No noise and no moving parts
Low maintenance costs
Easy to install
Promotes energy independence
Operates effectively even in the presence of beam or diffuse solar radiation
The main advantages of solar collectors include the following.
It is sustainable for high temperatures
Utilizes a larger area through the use of inexpensive mirrors
Redirects concentrated light through fiber optics
It can store heat for power generation during overnight and cloudy conditions
The following are some of the disadvantages involved when utilizing solar panels
High initial cost
High cost of repairing damaged solar panel installations
It does not generate electricity at night or under adverse weather conditions
The efficiency of solar panels may be affected by pollution
Some disadvantages of solar thermal collectors include.
It cannot generate electricity in diffuse light conditions
It requires sunlight tracking to keep the sunlight in focus
Some of the applications of solar panels include the following.
Solar powered radios
Solar powered fans
Solar powered flashlights
Solar night lights
Solar collectors have applications in the following areas.
Solar-assisted cooling, especially for commercial buildings and offices with central air conditioning systems
Swimming pool heating - Swimming pools use more energy to maintain the required temperature. By using flat plate solar collectors, the amount of energy used to heat a swimming pool can be greatly reduced.
Supplemental heating - Solar collectors can store heat in the summer for use in the winter.
It can also be used for domestic purposes, such as heating hot water for washing clothes and showers.