The difference between solar and photovoltaic panels

With us all facing rising energy prices, renewable energies are gaining ground and represent a sustainable and increasingly reliable alternative to gas, electric and oil.


The sun as a natural resource is the most solicited via solar thermic or photovoltaic panels. To produce energy, it is the sunshine that counts, not the heat. Therefore, even in winter, when temperatures are low, the sun can produce energy to preheat water and air or produce electricity. Solar energy has two major advantages compared to wind and hydro energy: It is clean because it is a resource that does not alter the environment and nor induce pollution at the time of transformation. A large majority of the components of the panels are recyclable. Accessible to homeowners, because the installation of panels is relatively affordable, with few constraints and easy maintenance. 

The difference between a solar thermal and photovoltaic panel: 

There are two categories of solar panels: solar thermal panels and solar photovoltaic panels. A solar thermal panel captures the sun’s rays and transforms them into heat, which is then reused for domestic hot water or heating. A solar photovoltaic panel transforms the sun’s rays into electricity to run the various electrical appliances in the home. The electricity from photovoltaic panels can be used continuously, stored in batteries or sold to the grid in case of excess production.

There are also hybrid solar panels on the market, i.e. panels with mixed sensors that produce electricity and heat. The big advantage of this technology is that when photovoltaic panels reach a certain temperature they lose efficiency but in a hybrid panel there is water circulating that will cool the panel and allow to maintain its efficiency. This technology is necessarily more expensive to purchase.

In Portugal, the government requires “the installation of solar thermal systems to heat domestic water in new buildings when the solar exposure is sufficient”. To do this, it is necessary to call on experts who will determine the energy needs of the home, the appropriate technology, the suitable location and will proceed to an optimal installation. To find a list of qualified Portuguese companies in this field the ADENE (Agency for Energy) website (brands and installers) is a good place to look. 

With an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, Portugal is the perfect environment for the development of solar energy.