Solar power has an unrivalled, near limitless variety of settings in which it can be applied, far more than any other form of renewable energy. Uniquely, solar energy can be captured and put to use virtually anywhere on the planet (apart from underground, indoors sufficiently far away from windows or deep underwater, of course).
In this section, we explore and explain the types of solar power solutions that are providing innovative solutions across the spectrum, from solar energy for homes to solar power uses in business and society at large. We start with solar power applications for the home, with a selection of specific applications. Then we move on to an overview of solar applications for business, before finishing with industrial-level applications.
Here at Context Solar, we believe that as essential as information and insights are, context is also vital. So our aim is to always provide you with the context for the content we provide – and that includes this introduction to this section. With that said, if you need to dive right in to find a particular article, we understand. Simply click here to skip down the bottom of this page for our full contents list for this section.
Solar Panels for Home
From early adopter status several years ago, the use of solar panels for home solar power solutions has gone mainstream in a big way, even in northern climates across North America and Europe. While solar power is by no means the dominant form of energy production for homes, it has become the most widespread form of renewable energy for home use and is making increasing inroads as a serious alternative to dependency on local grids.
The benefits to homeowners are many:
- Solar panels provide the means to generate enough free electricity to save a serious portion of their monthly power bill.
- The use of solar panels also lessens dependency on local utility providers, when consumers often see electricity price rises climbing steadily and with little advance warning, and not nearly as much meaningful competition as they would ideally like to see.
- The clean energy from solar panels is not only good for the planet – a healthy proportion of home owners using solar power systems have positive feelings about contributing to rolling back the effects of more than a hundred years of heavy use of fossil fuels based energy.
The bottom line is also a vital element, of course: solar panels for the home now make sense financially, thanks to:
- The constant, dramatic reduction in the cost of solar panels and solar energy as a whole
- The financial incentives to going solar, from Feed-In Tariffs to grants, loans and tax incentives, which have played a huge part in driving the rapid growth of solar energy for home use
- The longevity of solar panels, most of which carry warranties of up to 25 years, with performance guaranteed to drop only minimally over the life of the panels
In addition to the widespread use of solar panels for home use, there are other commonplace and valuable solar applications for the home, starting with solar lights.
Most of us have grown up with the discipline of switching off our lights when not in use, to save on the electricity bill (and perhaps, with an awareness of the positive environmental benefit). However, when those lights perform a safety function, that discipline needs to be relaxed, and traditionally, this incurred extra electricity bill costs. Happily, solar lights solve this problem by providing external lighting that improves general safety and home security (as well as additional aesthetic appeal), via free solar energy. Moreover, solar lights even work in dull lighting conditions (albeit with some constraints), including winter.
Solar chargers were initially viewed almost as exotic novelties, for example, the early solar mobile phone recharger packs. They were pricey and positioned cleverly as being between a necessity and slight luxury, sold in airport shops and even in airline duty free shopping catalogs. With the dramatic fall in the cost of solar cells and panels, plus advances in thin film technology, solar chargers can now be found in a very wide range of formats, from hand-held mobile chargers to the outside of backpacks and so much more. This technology is highly suited to the prevailing ‘always on, always on the go’ lifestyle that most of us live these days, and the solar charger means we can take our power with us.
As powerful as solar power is, it has three important limitations: it only works during daylight hours, and also, crucially, the power a solar system delivers must be used in real-time, or passed back into the local power grid. Otherwise, the electricity it generates is lost. In addition, solar power can only be used at the current maximum rate of power generation at any moment in time. Enter the solar battery, which solves all three problems, by storing the electricity produced by a solar system and making it available for later use, at the maximum rate capable by the battery.
Solar Water Heaters
By now, most people are aware, at least generally, that electricity can be produced by solar panels and solar power systems. However, far fewer people are aware that solar power is also used to produce heat for domestic water supplies, and that this technology is already in significant use. This is ironic, considering that mankind’s first use of sunlight was to derive warmth. However, this a happy case of futuristic technology taking us back to our past with a more efficient solution. Like solar power systems for home electricity production, solar water heater systems can reduce home electricity bills by some margin, as well as reduce dependency on the local power grid and do so in an environmentally friendly manner.
Solar Systems Usage in Business
As much as solar power usage for homes has been a visible and rapidly growing success story, there is also a powerful bow wave of businesses adopting and benefiting from solar systems. This may not be as readily apparent as the residential solar energy story, but it is nonetheless very significant, and like the home-based usage, set to continue growing at an ever-increasing rate.
These business applications scale from potential use of all the home applications above (office use of hand-held chargers, to solar lighting, to rooftop solar power systems, with associated solar batteries) right up to large-scale purchasing of solar power from utility generators. (There are an increasing number of large corporates doing this, to lock in significant quantities of green energy at attractive and predictable prices.) And of course, utility-scale solar power generation is itself a prime example of solar systems usage in business, on an industrial scale, and at a smaller scale, factoring in their business customers.
Solar CSP (Concentrated Solar Power)
Continuing with the theme of utility-scale solar energy, Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is a powerful example of a world-class, significant solar power application. This form of solar power will continue to grow its share of the contribution of green energy, and solar energy in particular, in the total grid migration to a cleaner mix, with a growing reduction in the reliance on traditional fossil fuels and other non-renewables for energy production.
Articles in this section
Now that you have a feel for the overall content in this part of Context Solar, here is our current list of articles in this section:
- Solar Systems Usage in Business
- CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) Explained
- Solar Battery Key Facts
- Solar Charger Key Facts
- Solar Water Heater Key Facts
- The Ins and Outs of Solar Lights