Solar Thermal Energy

Questioning solar

Solar Thermal Energy (STE) is a technology which allows us to harness solar energy for heat. It’s a renewable energy and therefore reliable, efficient and accessible. It can be used to heat water and air, and produce electricity on a domestic or commercial scale.

For more detail on solar thermal, visit our more recent article on Solar Water Heating.


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Types of Solar Thermal Collectors

The technology works by using solar thermal collectors, which are classified under three categories – 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. You can find out more about high temperature collectors in our guide to concentrated solar power.

How is Solar Thermal Different to Photovoltaic (PV)?

Solar thermal energy is different from photovoltaics, as it does not convert solar energy directly into electricity. A solar thermal collector concentrates the light from the sun to create heat, and that heat is used to run a heat engine, which turns a generator to make electricity. The created heat can also be used to warm substances such as air, water and gas – this is more common in residential solar thermal systems used to heat water for a property or pool.

Why use Solar Thermal?

  • Solar thermal systems are highly efficient and can help to reduce heating bills by providing up to 70 per cent of a household’s domestic hot water requirements per annum.
  • Installing solar thermal could also allow you to benefit from the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
  • It will reduce your carbon footprint by providing, clean renewable energy and lessening the amount of gas or electricity you rely on to keep your home warm.

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