In this article, we’ll look at the links and – perhaps more importantly – the differences between photovoltaic technology and solar thermal collectors.
Learn how these two systems function, discover their design and operation secrets and decide which system is superior: solar panels or photovoltaics?
What Are Solar Panels?
Solar panels are devices that convert sunlight into electricity. They are also known as photovoltaic (PV) cells.
Solar panels are made up of many small units called solar cells. When light strikes the cell, it creates an electric field across the layers of silicon. This phenomenon is called the photovoltaic effect.
What are PV Panels?
PV panels are made up of many small photovoltaic cells connected together. The name “photovoltaic” refers to the fact that the panels are composed of tiny photovoltaic cells.
Silicon and other elements are used in the manufacture of PV cells. When sunshine falls on the cells, an electric field is created.
Related: The History of Solar PV
Solar Panels Vs Pv Panels (Differences?)
What is the difference between photovoltaics and solar panels?
The difference between photovoltaics and solar panels is photovoltaic panels are primarily installed for the conversion of thermal energy into electricity. However, solar panels on the other hand convert solar radiation into heat or electricity.
How do solar thermal collectors work?
Solar thermal collectors capture energy from the sun, which is then transferred to the medium, usually a water and glycol solution.
Hot water is delivered to the exchanger by means of the medium, and the heat is then transferred to the water.
The water is then circulated back to the solar thermal collector.
Solar thermal systems, like photovoltaic systems, operate best when the system is pointed towards the south.
Solar thermal collectors, on the other hand, have significant limitations since they only work when it’s sunny and this results in large heat losses on chilly and overcast days.
At the moment, there are two distinct types of solar thermal collectors: flat and vacuum. Both operate effectively from April to the end of October, when the insolation level is greatest, owing to the weather conditions.
Flat solar thermal collectors
From the outside, flat photovoltaic collectors appear to be similar to PV panels. The solar energy absorber is a metal plate that is flattened on one side.
It is connected with a pipe system that circulates the medium that warms the hot water in the storage tank from the bottom to the top.
Mineral wool is used to insulate effectively, ensuring that the entire system functions efficiently.
Vacuum solar thermal collectors
The absorber in a vacuum collector isn’t an integrated unit, but it is divided into parts located in separate vacuum pipes.
The heating medium flows through each pipe, which connects to a bus and transfers the heat from the sun to the water stored in the exchanger.
Solar Panels vs. Photovoltaic Panels: (The principles behind PV panels)
To distinguish between solar panels and photovoltaics, you must first understand the PV system’s operating principle.
Solar panels are composed of silicon that absorbs sunlight and transforms it into electricity.
Solar thermal collectors are used to generate hot water, whereas photovoltaics may produce a wide range of energy.
Solar thermal collectors are designed to function for extended periods of time and in remote locations where grid electricity is unavailable.
Photovoltaics can be used to power all sorts of domestic, commercial, industrial, or agricultural systems and equipment.
The photovoltaic system is not only used during the summer months; it is also utilized throughout the year, even when insolation levels are lower.
The energy produced in the summer is transmitted to the power company so that some of the stored reserves may be recovered in the fall and winter months when the operation of the photovoltaic system is less productive.
Types of photovoltaic panels
When asked whether “are solar panels or photovoltaics is the way to go?”, it’s important to consider — as with solar thermal collectors — the PV module sorts available on the market. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline are the two PV module types.
Monocrystalline solar cells are the most popular option on the market, as well as the most efficient form of the solar cell.
While they also tend to be the more expensive option, the increased efficiency makes up for the higher cost.
Polycrystalline PV panels
Multi-crystalline solar panels, also known as polycrystalline or multi-crystalline solar panels, are solar panels that include many crystals of silicon in a single PV cell.
Polycrystalline solar panel wafers are made from numerous tiny pieces of silicon.
While they have a lower efficiency than monocrystalline solar cells, they are also less expensive to manufacture.
The process of creating a monocrystalline solar cell is more complex and time-consuming than that of creating a polycrystalline one.
Photovoltaic Panels Vs Solar Thermal Collectors – Strengths And Weaknesses
It’s also essential to examine the benefits and drawbacks of both solar panel options before making a decision.
Solar thermal collectors, like photovoltaics, are not as flexible as photovoltaic systems, which can be used to produce heat as well as electricity for various electrical equipment from the Sun.
Strengths of photovoltaic systems
The main strength of photovoltaic systems is that they are very versatile and can be used in a wide variety of applications, from small electronic devices to large-scale power plants.
PV systems are also very reliable and have a long lifespan. They require little maintenance and are not affected by weather conditions.
Weak points of photovoltaics
The main weakness of photovoltaic systems is their high initial cost. PV systems are also less efficient than other renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines.
Strengths of solar thermal collectors
Solar thermal collectors are very efficient at converting sunlight into heat. They can reach temperatures of up to 400 C.
Solar thermal collectors can be used to generate electricity, as well as hot water and space heating.
Weak points of solar thermal collectors
Solar thermal collectors are less efficient than photovoltaic panels at converting sunlight into electricity.
They are also primarily suitable for heating domestic hot water and space heating, rather than generating electricity.
Conclusion: Photovoltaic Panels or Solar Panels?
Solar panels or photovoltaic panels, which is better? It all depends on each individual’s circumstances.
Solar thermal collectors may be used to produce domestic hot water without the need for heating systems during the summer.
A residential photovoltaic system, on the other hand, allows you to use electricity all year and store surplus generated power in the grid.
Just ensure you thoroughly think it through before you make a decision.