How Is Solar Energy Gathered?


Quick Answer

As of 2015, there are two types of solar energy collection in common use. The first type of solar power uses photovoltaic cells to create energy by collecting light from the sun. The second type of solar energy focuses the light from a large area onto one point to boil a liquid.

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Full Answer

Photovoltaic cells use specially treated semiconductor wafers that have positive and negative sides. The light hitting the wafer knocks electrons loose from the semiconductor. Conductors that have been hooked up to the cell transmit the electric current to an end point, such as a battery or a light. The amount of current produced by each cell depends on the amount of light that strikes the cell. These photovoltaic cells produce only a small amount of electricity, but they can be wired together to form modules. Modules can then be wired together to form arrays.

Concentrated solar energy involves the use of mirrors to gather sunlight and refocus the light from a wide area onto a small point. The focus point may be for each individual mirror or for the entire array. Both curved and flat mirrors are used in this application. The sunlight is focused to boil liquids, which turns a steam-powered turbine that produces electricity.

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