Energy efficient designs, focus on the positioning of buildings. As a result they improve their solar energy absorption, to the maximum possible.
Windows are placed at the south side. That results in allowing the sun rays to pass through the windows for a longer period throughout the day.
They also reduce heat loss during winter, because cold air does not heat them directly.
How does solar energy work in your house? More Residential Solar Energy...
Farmers have always faced weather instability problems. Thus, they needed a controlled environment to raise their corps safely.
Since Roman times, a simple designed structure, named greenhouse or glasshouse managed to save their problems. It is a room built using a material that enables sun rays pass through them.
In this way, we use solar thermal energy to control the inside temperature. Moreover, these stable conditions (if we also control humidity, lighting, etc), enable us to produce corps year-round, which adds an extra benefit.
Greenhouses are a great proof that understanding how does solar energy work helps us to get the most out of it. Check out the history of solar energy to discover how greenhouses evolved since ancient times.
Architects use sun to light rooms. They position them the right way to distribute sunlight properly.
Places which are not exposed to sun directly, like basements or bathrooms, are lighted using special fiber optics which drive sunlight from the outside of the building. This method is called "Hybrid lighting system" and it reduces the electricity costs for lighting.
As mentioned before, sun provides direct thermal energy. So, we have to act in two ways:
We have to drive it away from the places we don't need it and harvest it were we need it.
A good green roof for instance, will insulate your rooftop and provide multiple other benefits. On the other hand, installing some solar water heating panels will provide warm air and water.
Although researches focused on huge projects, it is easy to engage the sun's thermal energy utilising small scale designs as well.
As a result, these technologies provide cheap, environment friendly home energy solutions.
Click here to explore the most interesting of the solar thermal applications currently used globally.
Most of the technologies mentioned above, root from the old times and they have been used long ago.
However, solar electrical generation is relatively new, and we have to say that it is becoming more efficient as scientists experiment on it.
Photovoltaics is the only method we can use for home energy production purposes, whereas the rest are used to produce electricity for large vicinities:
A combination of solar thermal and photovoltaic panels technologies is a recent innovation of scientists. These systems are more effective than each of their consisting systems alone. They can even reach a power efficiency average of 80% !
This happens because photovoltaic cells produce more power when they are cooled down. So, we use the thermal power to heat air and water while cooling the PV panel as well.
It is a really genius idea! isn't it?
Solar chemical energy is the power produced after the transformation of solar energy to another form. The most famous reaction is used by plants and it is known as photosynthesis.
However, technological processes evolve rapidly since the 1970s...
How does solar energy work with chemicals? How does sun react with them?
Thermochemical processes focus on deriving hydrogen, which is extremely explosive, from different sources. Some of these processes are:
One method is to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, with the help of solar thermal energy. After that we use the two fluids to produce energy.
We can also use the sun to drive the steam reformation of natural gas and get hydrogen.
Another way to produce hydrogen is using thermochemical cycles where the decomposition and regeneration of reactants takes place.
Sandia's Sunshine to Petrol technology manages to break down atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide (CO). The carbon monoxide can then be used to synthesise conventional fuels such as methanol, gasoline and jet fuel.
Photochemical cells use light to drive chemical reactions such as electrolysis.
Want to learn more about how does solar energy work? Here is the U.S. solar energy technologies program which can answer all your remaining questions.