Renewable Energy – What is the difference between Solar Thermal and Photovoltaic

As we have mentioned in previous articles, the Murcia region has one of the highest solar radiation levels in Spain and the end of Summer does not mean the end of seeing the sun for months on end. As a consequence, we can benefit from solar technologies throughout the year to reduce our energy bills and help protect the environment. There are different ways to collect the sun’s rays and whilst the best option is to make use of them all, it may be that one is more suitable to your individual circumstances than another. Below is a quick recap of the most popular options available to individual households:

Solar Photovoltaic
Also known as Solar PV, these systems enable the generation of an electric current which can be converted to electricity that can be consumed by household appliances. The solar cells are integrated into solar panels where the desired levels of current and voltage can be generated. The cells generate DC which is converted to AC by means of an inverter and this AC energy can then be used by the home.

Solar Thermal
Solar Thermal is the direct heating of water (or other fluids) by sunlight. The main use of this technology is for water heating and the solar water heating systems can provide hot water all year around, even in the cooler months. The technology has been around for many years. For example, in 1910 sunlight was used to heat water to produce steam which was then used to run a steam engine.

Domestic Solar Thermal systems generate heat which is used to heat water and domestic Solar PV systems generate electricity which is consumed by the home.

  1. Solar Thermal is more space efficient than Solar PV.
  2. Solar PV can be used to cover a household’s energy needs.
  3. Solar Thermal systems can be up to 70% more efficient in collecting heat from the sun than Solar PV, so provide more return in cloudy weather.
  4. Solar PV has a very long lifespan – approx. 30 years.
  5. Solar Thermal technology is less complex than Solar PV.
  6. Solar PV systems are more versatile than Solar Thermal.
  7. Solar Thermal is a smaller initial investment than Solar PV.
  8. Solar PV can be considered more flexible as excess electricity can be used to heat water, charge an electric vehicle etc.

Which the best option is generally comes down to available suitable roof space and/or budget and of course there are more ways to make use of solar technologies including solar pool heating and solar ventilation. Even just using the sun to dry your washing helps reduce your energy costs as well as your carbon footprint.

For more information on Renewable Energy and how it can help improve your life, contact Free-Sol Solar at or visit our webpage