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Solar Technology

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Solar energy is the cleanest, most abundant renewable energy source available. The U.S. has some of the world’s richest solar resources. Today's technology allows us to harness this resource in several ways, giving the public and commercial entities flexible ways to employ both the light and heat of the sun.

There are three primary technologies by which solar energy is commonly harnessed: photovoltaics (PV), which directly convert light to electricity; concentrating solar power (CSP), which uses heat from the sun (thermal energy) to drive utility-scale, electric turbines; and heating and cooling systems, which collect  thermal energy to provide hot water and air conditioning.

Solar energy can be deployed through distributed generation (DG), whereby the equipment is located on rooftops or ground-mounted arrays close to where the energy is used. Some solar technologies can also be built at utility-scale to produce energy as a central power plant.

Learn more about the three major types of solar technology below.

Photovoltaic (PV)

Photovoltaic solar panels directly produce electricity from sunlight.

These solar technologies directly produce electricity which can be used, stored, or converted for long-distance transmission. PV panels can be manufactured using a variety of materials and processes and are widely-used for solar projects around the world.

Solar Heating & Cooling (SHC)

Evacuated tubes are a common type of solar water heating technology.

These technologies generate thermal (heat) energy for water & pool heating and space heating. Some people are surprised to learn that SHC technology can also be used for cooling. Solar heating technologies are cost-effective for customers in a variety of climates.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)

This parabolic trough concentrating solar plant uses curved mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a central receiver tube.

Using reflective materials like mirrors and lenses, these systems concentrate sunlight to generate thermal energy, which is in turn used to generate electricity. Similar to traditional power plants, many CSP plants are hundreds of megawatts (MW) in size and some can continue to provide power after sunset.