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Most people use the terms ‘solar energy’ and ‘solar power’ interchangeably – but are there any real differences between the two?. 

Is solar power a type of power or is it a technology?  The same question can be asked of solar energy – is it energy or is it a technology?

To the man in the street, the two terms mean exactly the same thing, but obviously to the engineers and the experts, they’re distinctly different .  The terminology is also used interchangeably by the media, which adds to the confusion. 

Essentially, solar ‘power’ means converting the rays of the sun into electricity using technologies such as photovoltaics, or the various concentrating thermal technologies such as solar dishes, solar power towers etc, whilst solar ‘energy’ is a more generic term for any technology that converts the sun’s energy into another form of energy. 

A whole range of technologies and processes fall under the umbrella term of ‘solar energy’ – including solar thermal for water heating, space heating and cooling as well as passive solar that makes use of the orientation of buildings, materials and design for heating and cooling.

Let’s look at it this way – power is the ability to do work and energy is the rate at which work is performed.   Another way of explaining it is to think of the sun’s rays as being used in two different ways – as a source of heat and as a source of energy.

But let’s not waste time on the semantics – getting our heads around what we can DO with the sun’s energy is far more valuable than getting  our tongues twisted around the definitions.   

The sunlight that shines on the earth in just one hour is enough to meet world energy demand for an entire year!.  And despite this infinite resource, it’s interesting to note that less than 0.05% of the world’s energy needs are provided by solar energy technology.  With all that energy there for the taking, you’d think people would be doing more with it. 

However, there are some who believe that we are starting to see a change in the way people are living their lives and using energy – amongst those being a solar energy Perth company, Solar My World. 

 ”We’ve noticed a definite increase in demand for solar panels, solar hot water and solar electricity solutions as people make a conscious decision to change the way they live – and it goes way beyond simply doing it in order to qualify for a government rebate.  Plus they’re not only saving the planet, but they’re saving their pockets too,” said the solar energy Perth company.

So, let’s not worry about semantics and the language of solar technology – let’s just get on with it and let the sunshine in!.

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