Rooftop solar systems provide a simple, low-cost way to heat water and space.Photo: London PermacultureCross-posted from Earth Policy Institute. The pace of solar energy development is accelerating as the installation of rooftop solar water heaters takes off. Unlike solar photovoltaic panels that convert solar radiation into electricity, these "solar thermal collectors" use the sun's energy to heat water, space, or both. China had an estimated 168 million square meters (1.8 billion square feet) of rooftop solar thermal collectors installed by the end of 2010 -- nearly two-thirds of the world total. This is equivalent to 118,000 thermal megawatts of capacity, …
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