Difference Between Solar Photovoltaic and Thermal Energy Systems

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Solar photovoltaic energy systems convert solar energy into electricity. On the other hand, thermal systems concentrate the heat of the Sun. They use curved or flat mirrors to collect the heat of a fluid, such as oil, molten salt, or gas. This fluid is then used to drive a turbine and generate mechanical energy. This type of system is most suitable for countries with intense sunlight.


The cost of solar photovoltaic and thermal energy system installation depends on the amount of profit available to operators of PV systems in a given market. Generally, the higher the return on investment for PV systems, the higher the price. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

According to this website, the global installed capacity of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind turbine (CSP) systems increased by over 75 GW in 2016. This represents a 33.2% increase over 2015. The most significant increases were in China and the United States. As a result, China is leading the world in cumulative capacity, with 78.1 GW, followed by the United States, Germany, and Japan.

PV power systems typically produce abundant power during the day. However, their main challenge is to meet supply without sunlight. Fortunately, battery energy storage systems can extend the operating time of a PV system. This improves the dispatch ability and market value of a PV system.

While solar PV systems generate electricity, thermal systems produce heat. Both types of energy can be used to heat water and air. In addition, solar PV owners can sell excess electricity back to the power grid. Solar thermal systems can also store hot water to use later. As a result, many solar thermal systems include a hot water storage tank.

The costs of solar photovoltaic and thermal energy units can be compared. As the storage period increases, the installed capacity and installed costs decrease. For a given amount of storage, PV+TES costs become more affordable compared to a conventional electric heater.

The cost of solar photovoltaic and thermal energy system installation varies widely, but a complete solar thermal system costs between $7,500 and $10,000. This may sound like a high price, but the system may be your cheapest long-term heating solution.

Installing a solar thermal system can save you money on utility bills by supplying up to 50% of your household’s hot water needs. In addition, the heat from solar thermal energy can also be used to power energy-efficient cooling units, reducing your energy bills.


The efficiency of the solar photovoltaic and thermal energy systems is related to the ratio of incident solar energy to incident heat. The theoretical limit of a solar cell is 30 % for a single sun. However, the efficiency limit varies from one solar cell to another. The temperature of the PV cell also affects the efficiency limit.

Solar energy must be converted into electrical energy to maximize conversion efficiency. The conversion process is made possible through the use of filters. Spectral-splitting filters can be used for this purpose. In addition, optimal spectral-splitting filters can be designed to maximize solar energy conversion.

An efficient PV/T system must operate at a low temperature to maximize the amount of electricity it can generate. Otherwise, the energetic efficiency of the solar cells is reduced, and the electric output power is lower. Cooling the PV modules will increase the electric output power by improving the conversion efficiency of the solar cells and heat transfer from the module to the cooling medium. The improvement in efficiency can range from 10 to 30 percent.

The total effective efficiency of a solar photovoltaic and thermal energy system depends on the spectral-splitting filter and the PV cell material. The optimal filter and PV cell material depend on the coefficient w, which measures the delivered thermal energy relative to electricity. Therefore, higher w and optical concentrations lead to increased total efficiency limits.

PV cells can be grouped into panels or arrays to meet the energy needs of a building. Some of these systems use sun-tracking devices and DC-AC converters. Some systems use battery storage. Optimal PV systems can be customized to meet the energy needs of a building and can be combined with other technologies for storage.

SSPVT collectors can adjust the fraction of solar energy directed to the PV cell or thermal absorber, maximizing the total effective efficiency of a solar PV and thermal energy system. As a result, these systems always have a higher overall effective efficiency than stand-alone ST or PV modules.

Cost Comparison

There are two main types of solar energy systems: thermal and PV. Both systems use the Sun’s energy to heat a fluid and the electrical energy generated to power appliances. However, thermal energy systems are unsuitable for homes with limited roof space, while PV systems are more versatile and can be installed on any roof. They also have a longer lifespan than thermal systems.

Solar PV generates a small amount of electricity, and this electricity travels as alternating current (AC). The energy is then diverted to the appliances, fuse box, and grid. PV systems connected to the grid can sell surplus electricity back to the power company, which can help reduce your power bills.

The main differences between PV and thermal energy systems can be found in their storage capabilities. Thermal energy storage technologies enable CSP systems to produce electricity during low sunlight or at night. This helps to overcome the problem of intermittent power generation in solar systems. On the other hand, PV systems do not have thermal energy storage, making them inconvenient for storage, especially during poor sunshine.

A solar PV system’s cost depends on your power demand and location. For example, a three-kilowatt system for a four-nuclear family would cost around 3.5k USD. On the other hand, solar thermal systems are more affordable and cost around four to five thousand dollars. Both solar energy systems offer a green, eco-friendly alternative to fossil-fuelled power. However, each has distinct advantages and disadvantages you should consider before deciding.

Photovoltaic and thermal energy systems are becoming more affordable as technology advances. Solar thermal systems can store power and are generally cheaper than solar photovoltaic systems. Hybrid systems may soon become commonplace in homes. The two types of energy can complement each other.

Thermal energy systems have a higher LCOE than PV systems. This is because thermal energy systems require much more space and time than PV systems.

Environmental impact

Solar power is an excellent alternative to carbon-intensive energy sources, owing to its great potential to reduce polluting emissions and contribute to climate change mitigation. For example, studies have shown that when 10% of a state’s power is generated by solar PV, the total avoided CO2 emissions increase by 6.5% to 18.8%.

The environmental impact of utility-scale solar energy systems is complex, spanning various sectors, including land, air, and water. It also has visual, cultural, and social impacts. Therefore, it is essential to understand all aspects of the environmental impact of a solar power system before deciding on the design and construction.

Solar power facilities require large amounts of land to generate energy, which can interfere with other land uses. For example, solar power projects in wilderness areas and national parks could disturb wildlife habitats. Moreover, solar energy facilities may contaminate water bodies and adversely impact native plants and animals. These impacts include habitat eradication, rainfall disturbance, and contact with native species.

The environmental impacts of solar PV and thermal energy systems are complicated by the toxicity of the materials used in photovoltaic panels. While these panels are sealed under normal operating conditions, their decommissioning and disposal can release hazardous materials into the environment. Click here and learn how this impact can be minimized through good planning and maintenance.

The environmental impact of solar photovoltaic and thermal energy systems is a crucial consideration for renewable energy. Solar power can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate climate change, and improve air quality. It can also reduce water consumption from energy production. However, installing solar facilities requires land, which must be carefully selected and managed to minimize impacts on native plants and animals.

In addition to solar PV arrays, thermal energy systems use water during manufacturing. While solar panels do not require water to convert sunlight into electricity, solar facilities require water for cooling. Water consumption depends on the plant’s design, location, and cooling system.

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