The mission of the Solar Thermal Center of Expertise in Sustainability (CXS) is to provide knowledge creation and sharing throughout USACE in the use of solar thermal technologies. Solar thermal refers to technologies that capture solar energy and convert it to thermal energy (heat).
Our sun produces 400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 watts of energy every second and the belief is that it will last another 5 billion years. Although, much of the sun’s energy is reflected (by clouds or reflective surfaces like snow) or absorbed before it hits the earth’s surface, the amount of energy that makes it through our protective atmosphere is more energy than is currently stored on the planet in all fossil fuels.
Solar Thermal Energy technology is not the same as solar PV in the sense of photovoltaic, technology. Solar thermal electric energy generation concentrates or collects energy from the sun to create heat, and that heat is used to run a heat engine which turns a generator to make electricity or, heats domestic water, or preheats ventilation. The working fluid that is heated by the concentrated sunlight can be a liquid or a gas. Different working fluids include water, oil, salts, air, nitrogen, helium, etc.