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Given the vast amount of energy that can be sourced from the sun, many recent research and development efforts in renewable energy have focused on improving the ability to harvest, store and distribute solar energy.
Photovoltaic (PV) modules, often referred to solar panels, are the most ubiquitous solar power harvesting technology.
A major reason why semiconductor materials are used for PV modules is their ability to separate electrons into high and low energy states, which are separated by an energy gap that is inherent to the material. As the amount of absorbed sunlight increases, so does the number of high-energy electrons, which then creates a flowing electric current. Solar thermal, also know concentrating solar power (CSP), is a lesser known method to extract solar power.
A major challenges of solar photovoltaics and solar thermal energy generation is their inability to store energy effectively. The products of the photosynthetic process of certain plants can then be further refined to create chemical fuels that have sufficient energy density for practical applications. Given the controversy of using corn to generate fuels, researchers are investigating additional crops that can be used for biofuel generation.
In spite of the immense scale of biofuels, one of the main drawback of natural photosynthesis remains its inherently low efficiency.
Artificial photosynthesis aims to address the inherent flaw of natural photosynthesis by engineering a chemical scheme that converts sunlight into usable chemical fuels. A common example of this concept is  the production of aluminum: In its natural state, aluminum is found in various compounds, including aluminum oxide, which is more chemically stable than pure aluminum in nature. In the case of artificial photosynthesis, the energy input used to generate the required electricity is solar energy.
The premier DOE hub for artificial photosynthesis research is the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), which is headquartered at the California Institute of Technology. Humanity’s ability to harness solar power in an effective and economic manner has improved dramatically in the last decade. Cross-posted from BERC Blog, published online by the Berkeley Energy & Resources Exchange, a network of UC Berkeley scholars and industry professionals. I’m interested in seeing solar systems extend into outer space, perhaps something we might see in our lifetime. There are lots of benefits of solar water pumps and really you can save more water for irrigation and landscaping as well. Usually when I think of solar energy being used, I picture a bunch of solar panels that are laid out to capture and store UV rays.
Solar thermal technologies can be used for water heating, space heating, space cooling and process heat generation.
Santiago, your article was very well written and informative as relate to the logic of solar-energy capture and conversion to use for human purposes. The sun, as the ultimate source of all energy available on Earth, will continue to provide its vast energy for an untold period of time. A superior goal of solar energy must be to capture and store the heat from the sun, not the electricity produced by inefficient PV panels. CSP technologies are able to store the far more important heat that can be directed to electricity production when demanded.
I invite any and all questions as I will be ready very soon to disclose a small-scale CSP technology that will provide space heating, process heat, desalination, and electricity generation on a very affordable scale. Just by reading this article, I was able to learn a lot about the sun and the ways to produce solar energy.
The good news for homeowners is that while they wait for the utilities to get their act together, they can switch to solar and start saving money now. So the world PV capacity of 39 GW produces the same amount of GW hours as fewer than 10 conventional 1-GW power plants. How many of my home PV systems would be necessary to replace all the electricity that was being produced at San Onofre (assuming we could solve the intermittency problem)? More than 350 UC Berkeley scholars share their perspectives on local, national and global issues.
New installations of solar power continue to grow at an explosive rate as the price of harnessing solar power continues to drop. The ubiquitous nature of PV modules has prompted many to view the performance of PV modules as the main indicator of the overarching solar industry.


PV modules are made from semiconductor materials, which have the ability to absorb sunlight and create electric energy. When the sunlight is absorbed in the semiconductor, the absorbed energy promotes a low-energy electron to a high-energy electron, which then flows into the external circuit. Unlike PV modules, solar thermal is not applied commonly for residential or commercial building power generation. This creates a demand-response issue, as the generated electricity needs to be consumed instantly.
In the process of photosynthesis, plants take in Co2 and water to produce oxygen and glucose, a form of sugar. Their aim is to find biofuel crops that grow quickly and efficiently, have a high energy density, and mitigate the food versus fuel conflict. The energy conversion efficiency of natural photosynthesis is less than 0.5%, which is a major reason why many biofuel crops require significant refining steps to be converted into usable biofuels. Artificial photosynthesis intends to mimic the process of natural photosynthesis and to increase the energy conversion efficiency by replacing the biological agents in the natural scheme with solid state materials that drive chemical reactions to produce the desired fuels. In this case, the natural electrochemical reaction is for oxygen to react with the pure aluminum to form aluminum oxide.
The optical solar energy is converted into electricity inside the material system using the same scientific principles as PV modules. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is home of JCAP North, the second major location of the research hub. JCAP researchers are currently developing systems to convert CO2 and water into alcohols, such as methanol or ethanol, which are already being used as chemical fuels.
While solar photovoltaics, solar thermal and biofuels are already being used on industrial scales, the next generation of disruptive solar technologies may be based on artificial photosynthesis technology. I think information like this seriously helps breach the gap between the science of solar and what the average person knows about it.
Solar energy is very abundant in nature and we should make its use and should save other non-reusable resources to generate electricity I really appreciate your effort in this post and you have benefited others and me by enhancing my knowledge. It would be interesting to learn more about all of the materials that went into this technology to simulate how PV modules function.
Nevertheless, solar PV is quickly becoming a huge market and turning towards utility scale solar PV more and more frequently.
It would not only save me quite a lot of money, but it would be a great way to contribute to the well-being of the planet and it’s ecosystems. The billions of dollars being wasted in attempts to develop and deploy storage batteries for utility scale distribution of electricity would be better spent developing higher efficiency storage batteries for electric vehicles.
CSP will also provide the load demands on days of poor sunlight availability and during the night hours.
Indeed, if we can fully harness the sun’s energy, then it would save a lot of money without endangering the health of many people. Recently I read an article that in Japan some of the major Solar Power Companies are taking up the project to install the solar system in the outer space of the earth. As you have detailed in the 4 ways to do solar energy, there is much potential for this abundant source of energy. The size of the solar energy reservoir is considerably  larger than all other energy sources combined, including both renewable and non-renewable sources.
In 2013, the global solar power generating capacity increased by 26%, from 31 Gigawatts (GW) in 2012 to 39 GW in 2013.
When sunlight is absorbed in a semiconductor, the optical energy of the light is transferred to the electrons inside the material.
Positively charged holes are also generated in this process and maintain charge balance in the overall system. Solar thermal, however, has a tremendous potential to produce solar power on a utility scale.
In spite of its tremendous potential for utility scale application, solar thermal has recently faced increased skepticism due to its land-intensive nature, as well as environmental concerns relating to avian mortality.
Photosynthesis has been extensively studied and the abundance of plants on the earth’s surface speaks for the scalability of natural photosynthesis. This phenomenon was the scientific basis used to engineer some of the world’s first battery systems.


The reverse reaction can be initiated by flowing electricity through the aluminum oxide to create pure aluminum. Unlike PV modules, the electricity is not extracted into an external circuit but used to initiate chemical reactions at the surface of the material.
Since its inception in 2004, JCAP has designed and created various systems that have the ability to generate hydrogen via water splitting.
A material system that uses solar energy to convert CO2 and water into chemical fuels with reasonable efficiency would represent true mastery of the chemistry underlying the photosynthetic process, and could have substantial implications for the energy industry.
Most likely, the future solar energy will include a combination of the 4 methods to meet different types of needs as well as innovative technologies that have not been discovered yet. Our time is running out, and we all have to make changes as soon as possible if we want longer on this planet.
Building and deploying CSP on a smaller and more efficient scale makes far more sense than doing so on a utility scale. As the sun’s heat rays are more in the space, it will help them to generate more power. Solar energy is very abundant in nature and we should make its use and should save other non-reusable resources to generate electricity.
While the large companies are still pushing leases, my company is a great source for affordable residential solar power.
The recently closed San Onofre nuclear plant produced 2.2 GW at a capacity of 80 percent (conservatively). In the United States, solar power currently accounts of 1.13% of power generation capacity. The energized electrons can then be extracted from the semiconductor into an electrical circuit, yielding electricity. This process for making aluminum is known as the Hall-Heroult process and is still a common industrial practice today. The chemical reactions can be accelerated with certain catalyst materials, which increase the energy conversion of the overall system when engineered effectively. The solar generated hydrogen is a usable chemical fuel that can be used for a variety of applications. I think we should make this a big thing and should come together to adopt this technology of solar power plants so as to save money and our earth’s precious resources. It seems to work quite effectively for plants, so it makes sense to come up with a way to use that same concept into technology that we can use.
So if it works outs very well, then there will be an increase in the generation of solar power.
For example, most large coal- or nuclear-powered plants run at capacity factors of 80-90 percent.
Furthermore, the US Department of Energy (DOE) expects to add 1,510 MW of solar power capacity from finishing current solar projects by the end of 2015. Steam powered generators are a very established technology to generate electricity that is used by virtually all traditional power plants, including coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants. This means that if one applies electricity with a certain voltage to a chemical system, one can initiate a chemical reaction that does not occur naturally. Current artificial photosynthesis systems fabricated by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) display a solar hydrogen conversion efficiency of 12.4 %. That means on average, over the course of a year, they produce at full output 80-90 percent of the time. That means PV output figures have to be 4 times as big as conventional to produce the same power over the course of a year.
The importance of solar power in the future of the energy industry prompts a closer look at 4 ways to utilize solar power.
The inherent different difference between solar thermal and traditional power plants is that CSP uses renewable energy input to generate steam.




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