What is Solar Thermal?
Solar thermal is used to describe technologies that convert solar radiation into useful heat energy and was the first Solar Energy technology to be established. Solar thermal can exploit a larger proportion of the sun’s energy than photovoltaics, which only convert the light energy portion of solar radiation to electricity.
Solar thermal energy can be categorised in 2 ways: low temperature solar thermal and high temperature solar thermal. Low temperature solar thermal is generally used for heating air in the case of passive solar and for hot water production and central heating for buildings. High temperature solar thermal applications, such as concentrating solar thermal systems, are typically used for electricity generation.
What are the advantages of Solar Thermal?
The main advantage of solar thermal is that it can provide heat energy directly, which is more efficient than converting higher grade electrical energy into lower grade heat. Low solar thermal systems are not reliant on direct solar radiation, therefore still provide hot water on cloudy days. Solar thermal systems are now a mature technology and low cost systems are commercially available.
What are the challenges for Solar Thermal?
The storage of heat as a high grade energy source is a significant challenge for high solar energy. Furthermore, reducing the loss of heat throughout the system will see the efficiency of these devices improve. A considerable challenge with solar thermal energy in northern European climates is to maximise the output of these systems in winter months, when the heat is mostly required.
Please click on the links below to learn more about the different types of solar thermal technologies and the work being carried out by SISER researchers.