How do Solar Heating Panels produce Thermal Energy ?

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How do Solar Heating Panels produce Thermal Energy ?

Solar energy systems are based upon the laws of conservation of energy. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transformed from one form to the other. This forms the basis of all systems that are designed to capture the sun's energy and transform it into useful applications.

A solar heating panel is a device that accumulates and eventually, converts solar energy into electricity or heat for effective utilization. It is one of the key components of the solar energy system that is used to produce thermal energy. These are mainly classified into 2 categories.

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Photovoltaic panel:

It is a specially designed solar collector that utilizes solar energy to generate electricity. PV applications include simple solar battery in calculators as well as complex solar energy systems for satellites and space shuttles, remote radiotelephones and water pumping applications.

Solar thermal collector:

This type of panel is designed to absorb solar power to generate heat. The applications range from a simple solar hot water system to very complex systems designed to generate steam for turbines in power generation plants.

The effectiveness or efficiency of a solar heating system is largely based on the panels designed to absorb heat energy, which is the starting point of the system cycle. Solar collectors fall into two major categories based on the fluid utilized for extraction of heat. These are generally "liquid" and "air". These are further classified based on the temperature range over which they can be used efficiently. These classifications are: "low temperature", "medium temperature" and "high temperature".

Fundamental Principles of Solar Heating Panels

The fundamental principle of all solar heating energy systems involves 4 basic steps. The first and the most important step is to collect solar energy in the most efficient manner. The next step involves transportation of collected heat energy, utilizing a fluid such as water or air. The fluid carrying the heat is circulated through heat exchanger with a large surface area to disperse the heat for useful purposes. The same fluid is re-circulated from the thermal storage system back to the solar heating panel using a fan or a pump type device and the cycle begins all over again.

There is a wide range of solar panels that are used in thermal energy systems for solar home heating, based on the complexity of design and applications. Flat-plate panels are widely used for simple applications such as space heating and water or pool heating. A simple design consists of a weather-resistant box equipped with a metal surface with high heat absorption properties and built in tubes. The box is positioned on rooftops and collects the sun's heat directly. Solar energy heats up water in the tubes causing it to circulate through the system by natural convection. This is one of the most common types of solar thermal panels used to generate solar hot water. This type of solar water heating system is generally used in hotels and homes in sunny climates.

Evacuated tubes, parabolic dish or trough panels and solar towers are used for more complex solar heating energy applications involving high temperatures. These high temperature collectors employ sun-tracking mechanisms for optimal utilization of the sun's energy. Tracking collectors or panels are rarely used for domestic water heating and space heating because they are complex and expensive.

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How do Solar Heating Panels produce Thermal Energy?