Putting solar panels on your roof in Southern California? It’s very likely that you are installing solar electric panels (or PV panels as we say in the solar industry).
However, there is a whole world of solar energy outside of solar electric systems! The different types range from solar thermal systems to large-scale “CSP” installations, some of which have been around for more than a century! Today we are discussing the top four types of solar that are widely used by Californians.
Solar Electric Systems
Solar electric systems are by far the most common type of solar energy system installed in California. Often referred to as photovoltaic panels or simply “PV”, solar electric panels convert the energy of the sun into usable electricity using the photovoltaic process.
In recent years, the price of solar electric installation has become more affordable thanks to government incentives and rebates, favorable clean energy policies and solar financing. This has led to a surge in residential and commercial solar installation! In fact, California added about 2740 megawatts of energy in 2013. This is an incredibly large amount of solar energy, more than enough to power 600,000 homes.
Solar Hot Water
Many of our customers choose to install their solar hot water panels (in foreground) along with their solar electric panels, doubling the savings!
Sometimes called Domestic Hot Water or DHW, solar hot water is a very mature, reliable technology that has been used in Southern California since the early 1900s. Most homeowners need only 2-4 panels in order to provide the majority of the hot water used in their home. This will provide you with the majority of hot water needed to do your laundry, wash your dishes and keep that shower nice and warm!
Currently, the California Solar Initiative is now offering substantial rebates for residential installs. Combined with the Federal Tax Credit, our recent solar hot water customers are saving 50-60% on their installation costs.
Solar Pool Heating
Solar pool systems employ some of the most straight-forward technology of all the solar systems available today.
Ever leave your garden hose out in the sun and notice that the water runs warm as a result? That’s pretty much how solar pool panels warm up your pool’s water. First, water is pumped from your pool and circulated through the solar pool panels on your roof. As the sun beats down on the solar panels, the water within the panels warms up. Then, it drains back to your pool and increases the water to a comfortable temperature.
The majority of pool owners in Southern California can use unglazed solar pool panels made of polypropalene. Not only is it the most affordable, but the material is stronger than plastic panels and can hold up for 20 years or longer.
Concentrated Solar Power
The newest CSP facility in the Southern Californian desert went online earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Business Wire.
Concentrated solar power, often shortened to the acronym CSP, is used for large-scale installations that supply solar energy to a utility company. By using thousands of mirrors, sunlight is concentrated onto a small area and creates a large amount of heat (or thermal energy). This heat drives a steam turbine and that converts it into electricity.
CSP’s current poster child is the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. It went live in February 2014 and is expected to provide enough energy to power 140,000 homes.