Radiant light and heat from the sun is harnessed to provide energy and is used in technologies such as hot water systems, photovoltaic cells and thermal heating.
Solar energy types are defined by how light and heat is captured and converted using various technologies.
Passive solar energy
This utilises the sun’s natural thermodynamic properties to provide energy such as:
- a washing line to dry clothes
- using windows for light
- orientating a house to face north for winter warmth
- building homes with solar thermal mass or shading to keep rooms cool in summer.
Active solar energy
This uses constructed technologies to capture and convert solar radiation such as:
- photovoltaic solar cells for electricity generation
- solar thermal collectors to heat water for hot water systems.
Active solar energy systems such as photovoltaic cells can be used on your roof to generate small amounts of electricity to power appliances, lights, heaters and air-conditioners inside your home.
Large solar farms have hundreds of solar panels installed together to transmit energy into the electricity grid network.
These provide enough power for a township or a number of homes or businesses.
Solar energy during daylight hours
Active solar energy systems only operate in daylight hours. At night photovoltaic cells shutdown and electricity for your home needs to be provided from another source such as:
- batteries charged by the solar panels during the day
- the main electricity grid network.
Designing your new home with solar energy
New homes can be designed to reduce the amount of electricity needed from the grid by:
- using passive solar systems to reduce the volume of energy consumed
- installing active solar energy systems which provide a renewable source of electricity during daylight hours.
Making the most of solar energy
- hang your washing outside to dry
- install solar photovoltaic cells on your roof
- install a solar hot water service
- install skylights in dark rooms
- orientate living rooms with windows to the north to capture winter sun
- avoid facing windows west or overhang a verandah to reduce hot summer sun
- use building materials with thermal mass that store and release heat more evenly throughout the day.