The oldest form of solar power generation is solar thermal energy. It has been for thousands of years, going back to the time of ancient Greeks. Essentially, it uses the rays of the sun to produce energy or heat. It can be used to heat homes, other buildings, and also heat water. Using a solar thermal collector is can also be used to generate electricity. The greatest benefits (discussed at sunbugsolar.com) at of solar thermal energy are that it operates cleanly, without the need to use fossil fuels and it reduces carbon dioxide emissions.
Solar thermal uses the heat of the sun’s rays for a number of different uses. Any object or device that absorbs the thermal energy of the sun for creating heat or energy is technically a solar thermal collector. They range in size from small do-it-yourself home creations to very large concentrated solar thermal collectors used at solar power plants. Four popular uses are solar thermal water heaters, concentrated solar thermal collectors, solar thermal cookers, and solar thermal heating for large buildings.
For low to medium temperatures solar thermal water heaters are most popular and is probably the most popular use of solar thermal energy. They provide hot water for your home, in areas such as your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry. The simplest type of solar theater water heaters are black tanks that absorb the rays of the sun and slowly heat your water as a result. The solar thermal water heater that is quickly rising as the most popular is the solar thermal pool heater. Rather than a tank they use flat panels that transfer their heat into the pool.
Concentrated solar thermal collectors are generally used in solar power plants for massive power generation. They use massive arrays or mirrors and other similarly reflective panels. They redirect the sun’s energy on a single focal point, generating tremendously high temperatures; in some cases, over 3,500 degrees Celsius. The heat boils water which creates steam that power steam turbines. The powered steam turbines create electricity much like a traditional power plant. However, no fossil fuels are burned in the process, therefore there is little to no environmental footprint.
Not as well known a use but slowly becoming more popular are solar thermal cookers. Basically, they reflect the sun’s energy and capture it into a box or similar structure. The resulting energy is used to cook and/or even boil water. Inexpensive models can be constructed at home, and even more complex versions can be purchased. As they become better able to cook food quicker than a standard barbeque, they are becoming more popular for backyard cookouts.
It is also possible to heat (and even cool) whole buildings with solar thermal power. There are a couple different forms of heating and cooling, but the principal for this method of heating remains the same. Basically, it collects heat from the sun and transfers the heat helping to heat the building.
Solar thermal energy and heating generation can be quite a daunting subject. There is so much information out there; it can be very confusing and intimidating trying to determine how to proceed. Thankfully, companies like Sunbug Solar have websites (sunbugsolar.com) that explain solar thermal energy, its uses, and benefits, in a way that is clear and easy to understand.