Solar power is the result of converting sunlight into electricity. Sunlight can be converted directly into electricity using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly with concentrating solar power (CSP), which normally focuses the sun's energy to boil water which is then used to provide power.
Solar energy is not available at night, making energy storage an important issue in order to provide the continuous availability of energy. Both wind power and solar power are intermittent energy sources, meaning that all available output must be taken when it is available and either stored for when it can be used, or transported, over transmission lines, to where it can be used. Wind power and solar power can be complementary, in locations that experience more wind in the winter and more sun in the summer, but on days with no sun and no wind the difference needs to be made up in some manner.
Solar power is a predictably intermittent energy source, meaning that solar power is not available at all times. We can predict with a very good degree of accuracy when it will and will not be available. Some technologies can help, such as solar thermal concentrators with an element of thermal storage, such as molten salts. Salts are an effective storage medium because they are low-cost, have a high specific heat capacity and can deliver heat at temperatures compatible with conventional power systems. They have the potential to eliminate the intermittency of solar power, by storing spare solar power in the form of heat; and using this heat overnight or during periods that solar power is not available to produce electricity. This technology has the potential to make solar power more usable, as the heat source can be used to generate electricity at will. Solar power installations are normally supplemented by storage or another energy source, for example with wind power and hydropower.
Solar power provides electrical generation by means of heat engines or photovoltaics. Once converted, its uses are limited only by human ingenuity. A partial list of solar applications includes space heating and cooling through solar architecture, potable water via distillation and disinfection, day lighting, hot water, thermal energy for cooking, and high temperature process heat for industrial purposes.
Solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar depending on the way they capture, convert and distribute sunlight. Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors (with electrical or mechanical equipment) to convert sunlight into useful outputs. Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the sun, selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air.
Rowe Solar uses SunPower® technology, chosen most by Fortune 500 companies and government agencies turning to solar. Rowe Solar understands that the most efficient, reliable products deliver the greatest return on your investment.