Solar Thermal Vs Photovoltaic – An Overview


Solar thermal and Photovoltaic systems are two different solar technologies. Before investing in these systems, you need to go through their specific functions.

The sun’s radiation that enters the atmosphere is a direct source of solar energy. Two ways to harness the energy from the sun are solar thermal and photovoltaics. This leads to the question of solar thermal vs photovoltaic, which is better? Read the article to learn this and other related facts.

Solar Thermal Vs Photovoltaic – An Overview 

Solar photovoltaic systems also referred to as solar PV and solar thermal systems are two distinct technologies that are explained below:

Solar Photovoltaic

The photovoltaic effect, in which a photon, an elementary component of light, interacts with a panel made of semiconductors, is the foundation of photovoltaic energy. The primary component of semiconductors is silicon. The photon unleashes electrons when it strikes semiconductors. As a result of being exposed to light, this reaction produces energy. The semiconductors are shaped into narrow layers that generate an electric current in photovoltaic solar panels. These semiconductors are what power solar cells are made of. Electric current is captured by semiconductors and turned into power for homes and businesses.

Solar Thermal

Solar thermal systems generate heat, whereas solar photovoltaic panels generate electrical energy. Both of these methods use little energy, but solar photovoltaics can only be used when the sun is shining. On overcast days, it is still functional, but its ability to produce energy is reduced by 10% to 30%. Water prepared using solar thermal technology can be stored for later use, increasing energy efficiency. The heated water is typically stored in hot water tanks in solar thermal systems until it is required.

Concentrated Solar Thermal Vs Photovoltaic – What is the Difference?

To start, concentrated solar thermal systems (CSP) generate electricity by transforming solar energy into high-temperature heat. The way this specific technology operates is that the sun’s energy is focused by a number of reflectors and that focused energy is then used to power an electric generator and a heat engine. This system’s plants are divided into two sections: one that gathers solar energy and transforms it into heat, and another that transforms the heat energy into electricity. Alternating current (AC) is produced indirectly through CSP, making it simple to spread on the power grid.

Contrarily, photovoltaic (PV) solar cells are entirely distinct from CSP. PV solar panels use the sun’s light as opposed to CSP, which utilizes the sun’s energy. To put it another way, photovoltaics is the process of turning light directly into energy. The solar PV cells absorb light, which causes electrons to become free. This is how it functions. The current produced by the loose electrons flowing creates a direct electric current after it is captured and transferred into wires (DC). After being generated, direct current is changed into alternating current (AC), typically using inverters, so that it can be distributed throughout the electricity grid.

Also Read: How Does Solar Thermal Work?

Solar Thermal Vs Photovoltaic – Which is More Efficient?

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In contrast to a Solar Thermal System, which only requires 3–4m² of roof area, a Solar PV System may require up to 10m². Its great efficiency is the reason for this. Solar Photovoltaic has an efficiency of between 15% and 20% while solar thermal can convert about 90% of radiation into heat. This figure has been steadily rising as solar panel technology has advanced. It should be noted that if a Solar Thermal System is used to heat water, it will require some interior room. Space required by a solar PV system is almost entirely taken up by solar cells and little else. Additionally, a PV system would only need to add a few wires and a transformer indoors, taking up very little room.

A solar thermal system has some inconveniences even though it may be more effective, especially in boiling water. The lifespan, overall difficulties, and maintenance requirements of solar thermal systems are generally higher. Consider how much more intricate a Solar Heating System is. It takes in light, converts it to energy, and heats the air or water in your area. Unlike the PV System, which generates energy for widespread use, a solar thermal system with more components has more moving parts, which increases the possibility of problems and costs.

Also Read: Can You Run Solar Panels without Inverter?

Solar Thermal Vs Photovoltaic – Which has More Capacity?

The capacity of the largest photovoltaic power stations goes beyond 500 megawatts, and 400 megawatts is the maximum capacity of the largest thermal power stations. Generally, thermal power stations generate less output power compared to this range.

Solar Thermal Vs Photovoltaic – Which is Costly?

Cost of PV System

The cost of solar PV is influenced by the desire for electricity. Typically, a 3KW solar PV system is required for a nuclear household of three to four people.

It is typical to have 10–12 panels for a 3 kW system, with each producing 300 watts of electricity. Costs range from $4,500 to $6,500. A solitary group might cost between $500 and $600.

Cost of Solar Thermal System

Solar thermal systems are slightly cheaper than solar PV systems. A solar system appropriate for your house might cost between $3000 and $6,000.

In other instances, however, the price might go up. Thermal systems require more upkeep than PV systems do. Every three to five years, you’ll need to have your heating systems maintained.

Also Read: What is a DIY Solar EV Charging Station?

Solar Thermal vs Photovoltaic – Which is Better?

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Energy can be converted readily from one form to another, but doing so decreases efficiency. Therefore, it is preferable to choose the type of vitality you require first.

PV would be the best option if you desire electricity. Solar thermal should be used if you require heat energy. Let’s say you need both heat and electrical energy. In that situation, PV would be a better option than solar thermal because, given current technology, electrical power can easily be converted into any other form of energy. Solar systems are also becoming more effective every day. The cost of PV modules has decreased by 80% since 2009. In contrast, technological advancements in the solar thermal industry have been less significant.

Solar thermal and solar PV are used in various ways; for the most part, thermal captures heat while PV generates electricity. Now that we know some features of solar thermal and Photovoltaic systems, we can easily come to the conclusion that solar thermal is more efficient and cheaper however PV provides more output power.

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