methods of harnessing solar energy

10 Different Methods Of Harnessing Solar Energy

There are several methods of harnessing solar energy.

The energy of the sun is a renewable energy source that provides environmentally friendly green energy.

Solar technologies are advancing every day and improving the energy efficiency of solar panels.

They convert sun rays into electrical energy through photovoltaic cells (solar panels) and are becoming the dominant renewable energy source. 

Every ray coming from the sun we can use to generate electricity and eliminate the need for fossil fuels.

The heat and radiant light from the sun is harnessed through a variety of ever-evolving solar technologies such as

  • solar heating systems
  • photovoltaic solar cells (solar panels)
  • solar thermal energy (concentrating solar power)
  • solar buildings
  • heated salt control plants
  • synthetic photosynthesis

What Are the Active And Passive Methods of Harnessing Solar Energy?

Harnessing solar energy can be passive or active, depending on the method.

Photovoltaic cells (PV cells) in solar panels harness solar energy and aid solar water heating.

Apart from solar panels that can generate electricity to power your appliances, there are solar water heaters you can consider, as they generate hot water for your home.

Just like solar panels, you can use them in any climate.

Also, passive solar heating is as simple as letting the sun rays through windows to heat the inside of a home or a building.

Anyway, active solar technologies imply photovoltaic cells and solar panels, concentrated solar power, solar thermal collector systems (concentrating solar power), and others ways to convert sunlight.

Passive systems and methods of solar technologies include positioning a building towards the sun, choosing the right materials, and designing spaces that positively and naturally regulate airflow.

The availability of solar energy on a large scale makes it a highly valuable source of electricity.

Solar power increases sustainability, decreases pollution, reduces global warming, and eliminates the need of burning fossil fuels.

These are global advantages.

Is the Sun a Nuclear Reactor?

The sun is a primary nuclear reactor.

Nuclear fusion reactions are happening in the depth of the sun.

Extreme temperature in the sun causes the hydrogen atom to come apart, and the nucleus of the hydrogen fuse together.

Once four hydrogen nuclei combine, they form a helium atom that weighs less compared to the four cores of hydrogen.

Nuclear fusion will cause a loss of matter that will be released in space as radiant energy.

How Much of The Sun’s Energy is Used?

A small part of the radiant energy emitting from the sun reaches the earth.

From the radiant heat that reaches the surface of the earth, 15% of it goes back to space.

From the remaining power, 30% is used for water evaporation that results in rain.

The plants, land, and oceans also absorb the energy of the sun.

The rest we can use to harness solar power and generate electricity to fulfill our energy requirements.

Solar energy will play a definite role in the future.

There is continuous development in the technology of solar panels.

Why Harness Solar Power?

The sun does not distribute energy to all places evenly.

How much energy a site receives depends on different factors such as the phase of the day, time of the year, latitude, and weather conditions.

Solar thermal collectors do what their name says: it collects the sun’s energy.

The simplest example of a solar collector and solar heating is a car standing in the sunlight.

When the car’s windows, seat covers, and floor absorb the sun’s energy, they act as solar collectors and convert solar power into heat.

A solar collector should have the following essential things:

  • It should allow the sunlight to pass through it
  • Should absorb the sunlight
  • Must convert the sunlight into heat
  • Has to prevent the heat from escaping

A study suggests that the earth receives 174 PW (petawatt) from the received solar radiation in the upper atmosphere.

From the above 174 PW, around 30% approximately will be reflected space while the rest will be absorbed by the skies, water, and landmasses.

Water Heating

In lower topographical latitudes, water usage for homes requires a temperature of 60o C that can be achieved by solar heating systems.

There are two solar water heating systems mostly used:

  • the evacuated tube collectors
  • the glazed flat plate collectors that are 44% and 34% in use, respectively.

To make the swimming pool warm, the unglazed plastic collectors system is mainly used.

The total capacity of the solar hot water system is 154 GW in 2007.

China is leading in the growth of 70 GW in 2006.

The Chinese are also planning to produce 210 GW by 2021.

However, Israel and Cyprus are the top countries where this system is in usage 90% of which is consumed for domestic use. 

In the United States, the total energy consumption for commercial buildings is 30%.

This is when heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems are used.

However, the consumption of energy is 50% in residential housing when using the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.

What is a Thermal Mass?

Concentrating solar power includes materials that store heat; these are known as thermal mass.

The typical examples of thermal energy mass include stone, water, and cement.

In ancient times, the thermal mass was used to capture solar energy during the daytime.

The accumulated solar power is emitted at night.

When the thermal masses are assembled correctly, they can sustain the temperature and decrease the necessity for supplementary heating and chilling equipment.

What Is the Role of Trees and Plants in Heating and Cooling?

Trees and plants help in promoting the control of solar heating and cooling system.

The leaves of these plants act as shades during hot weather and permit the light to pass through them during the winter season.

Deciduous trees should not be cultivated on the side of the building that is facing the equator because they will affect the wintertime solar accessibility.

These trees can be planted on the east and west side of the building to provide coverage without significantly affecting wintertime solar access.

What Are the Best Ways of Harnessing Solar Energy?

  1. Process Heat s to provide air conditioning and electrical necessities for a cloth factory
  2. Water Treatment makes salty water drinkable by a process known as solar distillation.
  3.  Molten Salt Technology refers to the process of retaining thermal power gathered by towers of a solar power plant (also known as Thermal Energy Storage or Molten Salt Technology).
  4. Concentrated Solar Power uses mirrors or lenses along with a tracking system to concentrate sunshine in one beam to a vast area.
  5. Production of Electricity is solar power conversion that may take place directly via photovoltaics solar panels or by indirect concentrated solar energy.

In lower topographical latitudes, water usage for homes requires a temperature of 60o C that can be achieved by solar heating systems.

The total capacity of a solar hot water system was 154 GW in 2007.

However, Israel and Cyprus are the top countries where this system is in usage 90% of which is consumed for domestic use. 

In the United States, the total energy consumption for commercial buildings is 30%.

However, the consumption of energy is 50% in residential housing when using the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.

What Are the Methods to Store Solar Energy?

The energy from the sun can be preserved by a thermal mass system.

This can be done at a valuable temperature for regular or inter-seasonal lengths in the form of heat.

These thermal solar systems use materials that are highly precise to heat water, earth, and stone.

If this thermal solar system is designed correctly, then it can lessen the requirements for heating and cooling.

Apart from the thermal energy storage system, other materials that can act as a thermal storing system are paraffin wax and Glauber’s salt.

These materials are cheap and readily available.

They’re valuable for maintaining the residential temperature.

Salts have a high capacity to store heat and are available at a low cost.

The spices are compatible with conservative power structures.

A project named “Solar Two Project” uses salt to store energy up to 40000 kWh.

Its efficacy is almost 99%.


Engineers are trying to develop a car since the 1980s that utilizes solar power.

In 1987, there was a car race in Australia featuring solar-powered vehicles.

These vehicles should cover a total distance of 3021 km.

The average speed of cars in that race was around 67 km per hour and reached up to 90.87 km per hour in 2007.

Several cars used solar energy through solar panels to operate additional functions like the air conditioning system.

The use of solar energy also reduces fuel consumption.

Solar energy is also useful in transportation in 1975 when the first solar boat was constructed.

Then in 1995, a passenger boat has been built by using photovoltaic panels for the transportation of several people.

Recently, the black solar balloon was constructed.

Ordinary air was used to fill it.

Under the sun, the air in the balloon becomes hot, and expansion takes place.

This expansion of the air in the balloon causes the buoyancy force in the upward direction.

These balloons are also called hot air balloons.

With the development of technologies, several giant balloons were formed for human flight.

Natural Photosynthesis

The generation of thermal energy and the usage of solar photovoltaics face a significant issue of adequate energy storage.

The disadvantage is mainly because the electricity generated by solar photovoltaics and thermal energy should be consumed immediately.

However, plants can store solar energy through the process of photosynthesis.

The method of photosynthesis is a process in which plants use carbon dioxide and water to generate oxygen and glucose.

Several studies were conducted to study the process of photosynthesis in detail.

Now, this process of photosynthesis is used to generate chemical fuels.

These synthetic fuels have adequate energy density for real-world use.

This procedure is already in use to make the fuel ethanol from corn feedstock.

Researchers are working on different crops to generate biofuel, as there are some controversies related to the use of corn to produce fuel.

The researchers are aiming to find the plants that reproduce quickly, have a higher energy density, and can lessen the controversies about food and fuel.

The researchers will follow the process of photosynthesis and will keep on trying to develop biofuel with the help of solar energy.

The only drawback of biofuels is their low efficiency, that is, the efficiency of normal photosynthesis is lesser than 0.5%.

This is the reason why the crops for biofuel need a noteworthy purifying process to be transformed into functional biofuels.

Final Thoughts

There are several primary technologies used to capture and harness solar energy.

The most common way is photovoltaic cells (solar cells) in a solar panel that anyone can install on a rooftop.

Besides, there are various solar-powered gadgets that run on a small solar panel that can generate electricity enough to power them.

Every solar panel you can use at home generates an electric current; it powers your home appliances or heats your water.

Large solar systems drive electric turbines in a power tower and run solar heating and cooling systems that collect thermal energy.

The environmental sustainability of solar power is what makes solar technologies an interesting and developing field that will take over in the future and power plants will also start relying more on this source of power.

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