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Solar Overview
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Solar energy technologies use solar radiation for practical ends. Technologies that use secondary solar resources such as biomass, wind, waves and ocean thermal gradients can be included in a broader description of solar energy but only primary resource applications are discussed here. Because the performance of solar technologies varies widely between regions, they should be deployed in a way that carefully considers these variations.

Solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive or active depending on the way they capture, convert and distribute sunlight. Active solar techniques use photovoltaic panels, pumps, and fans to convert sunlight into useful outputs. Passive solar techniques include selecting materials with favorable thermal properties, designing spaces that naturally circulate air, and referencing the position of a building to the Sun. Active solar technologies increase the supply of energy and are considered supply side technologies, while passive solar technologies reduce the need for alternate resources and are generally considered demand side technologies.

 
Solar Energy
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Solar energy refers to the utilization of the radiant energy from the Sun. Solar power is used interchangeably with solar energy, but refers more specifically to the conversion of sunlight into electricity by photovoltaics, concentrating solar thermal devices, or by an experimental technology such as a solar chimney or solar pond.

Solar energy and shading are important considerations in building design. Thermal mass is used to conserve the heat that sunshine delivers to all buildings. Daylighting techniques optimize the use of light in buildings. Solar water heaters heat swimming pools and provide domestic hot water. In agriculture, greenhouses expand growing seasons and pumps powered by solar cells (known as photovoltaics) provide water for grazing animals. Evaporation ponds are used to harvest salt and clean waste streams of contaminants.

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Solar Heating
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Solar heating is the usage of solar energy to provide process, space or water heating. See also Solar thermal energy. The heating of water is covered in solar hot water. Solar heating design is divided into two groups:

  • Active solar heating uses pumps which move air or a liquid from the solar collector into the building or storage area.
  • Passive solar heating does not require electrical or mechanical equipment, and may rely on the design and structure of the house to collect, store and distribute heat throughout the building (passive solar building design).

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