Renewable, carbon-free heat

Solar thermal energy uses the sun’s energy to generate heat and hot water. It is a carbon-free (during operation), renewable source of energy.

Turning the sun’s radiation into heat

Solar thermal technology is responsible for harnessing solar energy to generate thermal energy or electrical energy. Solar thermal technologies involve the conversion of solar radiation into heat and include the use of pumps or fans to actively transfer the heat to storage or for distribution directly to its intended use. The key component of any active solar system is the solar collector, which absorbs the sun’s radiant energy and transforms it into usable heat.

For electrical energy, solar irradiance is focused on one collector, where all the heat evaporates water to create steam. The steam is used to drive a turbine, attached to a generator which produces electricity.

Photo Credit: Mike Ridewood

Benefits of Solar photovoltaic

Does not require fuel

Solar panels operate without any fuel. Natural solar irradiation is all that is needed.

Better value in larger installations

Due to economies of scale, heating costs can be lower with solar thermal on large installations in part because the heat can be stored more effectively in larger units and optimally adjusted to the heat requirements.


The process of generating energy from solar panels produces no GHG emissions.

Photo Credit: Michael Ridewood


Higher capital costs

Solar energy technologies have a higher capital cost during installation in terms of expense per unit of energy generated.

Requires large areas of space

Solar thermal installations require solar panels to be placed in areas where maximum direct sunlight is available and which are free from shade.

Energy storage is expensive

Since solar energy is fuelled by an intermittent source that is based on weather conditions, thermal energy storage is a critical factor to consider. However, these energy storage technologies are expensive and the system would not be economically viable at very small scales.

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