Solar thermal—technology
Produced in partnership with WSP
Solar thermal—technology

The following Energy practice note produced in partnership with WSP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Solar thermal—technology
  • What is solar thermal?
  • Solar thermal system components
  • Technical characteristics
  • Stagnation
  • Feasibility Criteria
  • End user
  • Siting
  • Fuel displacement
  • Other technologies
  • More...

Solar thermal—technology

What is solar thermal?

Solar thermal refers to collectors that harness energy from the sun to generate hot water. Solar collectors are usually installed on roofs but can be also mounted on the ground, walls or integrated in building elements ie shading devices, canopies etc. The heat generated is mainly used to provide domestic hot water, and possibly heating or warm air, for buildings. It can also be used to heat or pre-heat water for industrial processes, provide warm water for swimming pools and drive a particular type of chiller for air conditioning.

In the UK, because of the level of solar radiation received (the maximum is about 1 kW/m2) and its seasonal variation, solar systems are unable to meet the total hot water heating demand of a building at a viable cost. Storage buffers or complementary heating systems are often required. Solar thermal systems are considered zero carbon, although a small amount of electricity is required for pumps, fans and/or control systems.

Solar thermal system components

There are four main elements to a solar thermal system:

  1. collector

  2. pumps

  3. thermal store, and

  4. controller

The collectors fall into two categories:

  1. flat plate, and

  2. evacuated tube

The key element of both flat plate and evacuated tube collectors is the absorber. This is the surface, usually flat, on which the solar radiation falls and which incorporates tubes or channels through which the

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