Solar energy and solar power are two terms that are often used interchangeably but actually they are not the same thing. They both mean to receive and use solar rays, but more specifically solar power refers to electricity generated from the sun’s light.
Solar energy is a more generic term and it describes all the uses of the light and heat from the sun. That includes solar power generation, but also solar thermal for water heating, space heating and cooling, and heat for industrial processes. Solar energy includes also passive solar energy that uses building orientation, design and materials to heat and cool buildings.
Solar power is generated directly using photovoltaic (PV) technology. Solar PV panels (made from a semiconductor material) harness sunlight to create electricity to run appliances and lighting in your home. The electricity created by the solar system is direct current (DC), and the electricity we use in our homes is alternating currents (AC). Thus solar systems need an inverter which changes the DC current into useable AC current.
There are also concentrating solar power systems. They concentrate the sunlight using mirrors or lenses onto a receiver to produce heat. Then the heat can be used to generate electricity through steam turbines.
Solar energy is clean, environment-friendly, and most abundant renewable energy source we can use. In my next few posts, I will write about producing your own solar electricity by installing solar PV panels on the rooftop of your house, and what basic information householders need to know at the beginning.