how is the solar energy used to generate electricity in a solar power plant?

Asked by pri | 19th Mar, 2012, 05:04: PM

Expert Answer:

The sun's energy can be captured to generate electricity or heat through a system of panels or mirrors.

  • Solar, or photovoltaic, cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. Most photovoltaic cells are made primarily of silicon, the material used in computer semiconductor chips, and arranged on rectangular panels. When sunlight hits a cell, the energy knocks electrons free of their atoms, allowing them to flow through the material. The resulting DC (direct current) electricity is then sent to a power inverter for conversion to AC (alternating current).
  • Solar thermal collectors use heat-absorbing panels and a series of attached circulation tubes to heat water or buildings.
  • Solar concentration systems use mirrors -- usually arranged in a series of long, parabolic troughs, a large round dish, or a circle surrounding a "power tower" -- to focus the sun's reflected rays on a heat-collecting element. The concentrated sunlight heats water or a heat-transferring fluid such as molten salt to generate steam, which is then used conventionally to spin turbines and generate electricity.
  • Passive solar design is the creative use of windows, skylights and sunrooms, building site and orientation, and thermal construction materials to heat and light buildings, or to heat water, the natural way.

Answered by  | 20th Mar, 2012, 01:07: PM

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