"Solar power refers to the utilization of the radiant energy from the Sun. Solar power is used interchangeably with solar energy, but refers more specifically to the conversion of sunlight into electricity by photovoltaic's, concentrating solar thermal devices, or by an experimental technology such as a solar chimney or solar pond.
Solar energy and shading are important considerations in building design. Thermal mass is used to conserve the heat that sunshine delivers to all buildings. Day lighting techniques optimize the use of light in buildings. Solar water heaters heat swimming pools and provide domestic hot water.
In agriculture, greenhouses expand growing seasons and pumps powered by solar cells (known as photovoltaic's) provide water for grazing animals. Evaporation ponds are used to harvest salt and clean waste streams of contaminants. Sunlight can be converted into electricity using photovoltaic's (PV), concentrating solar power (CSP), and various experimental technologies. PV has mainly been used to power small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to off-grid homes powered by a photovoltaic array.
For large-scale generation, CSP plants like SEGS have been the norm but recently multi-megawatt PV plants are becoming common. Completed in 2007, the 14 MW power station in Clark County, Nevada and the 20 MW site in Beneixama, Spain are characteristic of the trend toward larger photovoltaic power stations in the US and Europe.
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