Types of Solar
There are two types of
solar thermal collectors. The first, known as "flat plate
collectors," contain absorber plates that use solar
radiation to heat a "carrier fluid," either a liquid
like oil or water, or air. Because these collectors can heat
carrier fluids to around 80o
C, they are suited for residential applications.
The second type of solar
collectors are known as concentrating collectors. These panels
are intended for larger-scale applications such as air
conditioning, where more heating potential is required. The rays
of the sun from a relatively wide area are focused into a small
area by means of reflective mirrors, and thus the heat energy is
concentrated. This method has the potential to heat liquids to a
much higher temperature than flat plate collectors can alone. The
heat from the concentrating collectors can be used to boil water.
The steam can then be used to power turbines attached to
generators and produce electricity, as in wind and hyroelectric
An image of solar panels on the roofs of houses in Davis, California.