There are three different approaches to harnessing solar energy
- Low-temperature collection
- Concentrating solar power
- Photo-voltaic systems
Low-temperature systems typically use a flat-plate collector to heat water. These can have a selective surface applied that absorbs the solar radiation effectively while not re-radiating much of the energy at the temperature of the collector. Stainless steels may be used for the collector and associated pipes.
Concentrating solar power uses arrays of mirrors to concentrate the solar radiation onto receivers, where the temperature can reach 500°C. The heat is transported using molten salts in heat- and corrosion-resistant stainless steel tubing. Stainless steel tanks containing molten salts are also used to store the heat.
Photo-voltaic systems generate electricity directly and may use stainless steel for the panel frames.