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Uses of Solar Energy

What is solar power used for?

In addition to residential solar, there are other solar applications described below:

Stand-Alone Devices

In some cases, it is more economical to power some stand-alone device using solar than to connect them to the electricity grid. Such solar powered devices include: parking meters, trash compactors, water pumps, temporary traffic signs, emergency telephones and communication satellites.

Rural Electrification

In remote areas, it is often very pricey to connect to the grid. Generally, if a residence is more than 5km away from a grid connection, solar power is cheaper. Off-grid solar energy applications have also been successful in providing electricity in the developing world.

BIPV at the WestendGate building in Frankfurt.

Large-Scale PV Power Plants

Large photovoltaic power plants (or solar “farms”) have a large surface area of solar panels than generate electricity to be fed into the grid. The biggest solar power plants are in Canada, Italy, Germany and Spain. Solar thermal energy is also used to generate energy on an industrial scale.

Building-Integrated Photovoltaic

As the use of solar power is growing, more new constructions have PV panels built in. In such cases, solar panel are built into the roof or walls of a building. These kinds of photovoltaic applications are referred to as building-integrated photovoltaic, or BIPV.


In December 2008, the first PV system in a highway right-of-way in the U.S. was installed in Oregon. It produces enough power to replace about one third of the energy required to light the Interstate highway interchange where it is located.


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