Friday, July 17, 2009

Thermal Solar Power Systems

By Walter Hull

The term thermal solar power refers to systems that convert solar radiation into useful heat. This is also referred to as passive solar energy. It is a different type of system from solar power electricity, and whose usefulness should not be overlooked.

Thermal solar power can be used in as many ways as you can think. Designs exist from heating up your hot water tanks, to industrial steam generation and everything in between. Many of these systems are attractive because of their low cost and simplicity.

For most folks, thermal solar power will be limited to heating up a hot water tank, or storing heat for the workshop or house. These systems are inexpensive to incorporate, especially when designing a new home.

Other possibilities exist with pebble bed heat exchangers, which are designed to store excess thermal energy. These heat exchangers give our systems some operating flexibility. With this reservoir of heat, we can consider different applications for our thermal solar power system.

These pebble bed heat exchangers can be designed into your floors, walls, workshops, or other places around the home. They can be used for household heating, greenhouses, saunas, and as air driers for clothes. We had one design whereby a user wanted to heat up a nesting area in their chicken coupe!

The typical operating temperatures for a thermal solar power system will range from 120F to 180F. We have technologies to boost these temperatures from 200F to 350F. Industrial grade technologies can achieve temperatures in excess of 700F. Most of us with fall in the hundred degree category, but for the tinkerers, mechanics, and home enthusiasts we may want to push 300 degrees for our special applications.

The solar collector is the most important component to a thermal solar power installation. A few different types include flat plate absorbers, evacuated tube absorbers, and parabolic trough concentrators. Their main purpose is to absorb solar radiation and generate heat for the system. With a good sized solar collector system, significant heat can be generated and distributed to multiple locations.

The lifeblood of the thermal solar power design is the circulating fluid. The circulating fluid is heated in the solar collector, and then pumped to all the system users. This fluid is typically oil, glycol, or water which is matched to the system temperatures and equipment in use.

Anyone seriously interested in energy independence should start with thermal solar power technology. The components are simple and inexpensive. If you could identify your climate as having reasonable amounts of Sun, then thermal solar power is encouraged to the fullest extent.

We believe thermal solar power to be a steadily growing market into the future, due to a growing awareness of energy conservation and reverting back to our natural ways. Thermal solar power is one good way to do this. The Sun is free, and we receive its energy each and every day. Solar hot water, home heating, and pebble bed heat transfer systems are simple to incorporate and easy to use. We believe their popularity will gain in years to come.

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