Solar power is typically converted into electrical energy by means of heat engines or photovoltaics. Once converted, its uses are as expansive as there are electrical and electronic applications. Some of the more common solar applications includes space heating and cooling through solar architecture, potable water via distillation and disinfection, daylighting, hot water, thermal energy for cooking, and high temperature process heat for industrial purposes.
Solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar depending on the way they capture, convert and distribute sunlight. Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors (with electrical or mechanical equipment) to convert sunlight into useful outputs. Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the Sun and selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light dispersing properties.