The solar electric systems work on
photovoltaic principle. The heart of the
system is the solar cell. The single crystal
silicon solar cells convert solar energy
directly to electricity. This electricity then
charges the battery through a battery
charger. The electrical energy thus stored
in the battery is then utilized through
inverter (DC to AC) or converter (DC to
DC) for various purposes such as lighting,
pumping and running of the TV.
Solar thermal energy (STE) is an innovative
technology for harnessing solar
energy for thermal energy (heat). Solar
thermal collectors are classified by the United
States Energy Information Administration as
low-, medium-, or high-temperature
collectors. Low-temperature collectors are flat
plates generally used to heat swimming pools.
Medium-temperature collectors are also
usually flat plates but are used for heating
water or air for residential and commercial
use. High-temperature collectors concentrate
sunlight using mirrors or lenses and are
generally used for electric power production.
STE is different from and much more efficient
than photovoltaics, which converts solar
energy directly into electricity
Airflows can be used to run wind turbines. Modern
utility-scale wind turbines range from around
600 kW to 5 MW of rated power, although turbines
with rated output of 1.5–3 MW have become the
most common for commercial use; the power
available from the wind is a function of the cube of
the wind speed, so as wind speed increases, power
output increases dramatically up to the maximum
output for the particular turbine. Areas where
winds are stronger and more constant, such as
offshore and high altitude sites, are preferred
locations for wind farms. Typical capacity
factors are 20-40%, with values at the upper end of
the range in particularly favourable sites.
Energy in water can be harnessed and used.
Since water is about 800 times denser than
air, even a slow flowing stream of water, or
moderate seaswell, can yield considerable
amounts of energy. There are many forms of
Hydroelectric energy is a term usually
reserved for large-scale hydroelectric dams.
Examples are the Grand Coulee Dam in
Washington State and the Akosombo Dam in
Micro hydro systems are hydroelectric power
installations that typically produce up to
100 kW of power. They are often used in
water rich areas as a remote-area power
Run-of-the-river hydroelectricity systems
derive kinetic energy from rivers and oceans
without the creation of a large reservoir.
Biomass (plant material) is a renewable energy
source because the energy it contains comes from the
sun. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants
capture the sun's energy. When the plants are
burnt, they release the sun's energy they contain. In
this way, biomass functions as a sort of natural battery
for storing solar energy. As long as biomass is
produced sustainably, with only as much used as is
grown, the battery will last indefinitely.
In general there are two main approaches to using
plants for energy production: growing plants
specifically for energy use (known as first and third-
generation biomass), and using the residues (known
as second-generation biomass) from plants that are
used for other things. See biobased economy.
The best approaches vary from region to region
according to climate, soils and geography.