An Alternative to solar thermal electricity generation and solar photovoltaic electricity generation is the direct conversion of solar energy into electricity by a solar thermoelectric system. Thermoelectric generators convert thermal energy directly into electricity relying on the Seebeck effect in solid materials. The Seebeck effect is a process whereby a temperature difference across a material generates electricity. In a solar thermoelectric generator solar radiation is absorbed and the heat generated from the solar radiation is transferred to the hot side of the thermoelectric device thereby creating a temperature difference across the thermoelectric device which produces electricity via the Seebeck effect. Also solar thermoelectric generators are scalable and relatively cost effective for residential applications. Regardless of what solar electricity generation system is used the main problem associated with solar energy is that it is an inherently intermittent energy source. Solar radiation output varies throughout the day and is often affected by cloud cover. Thus an important aspect of solar electricity generation is being able to store and being able to use the solar energy to generate electricity generation is that the conversion efficiency between solar energy to electricity is low and the substantial amount of solar energy is wasted in the form of heat. To counteract this the wasted heat from the solar electricity generation could be recovered and used for a solar fluid heating system or for another thermoelectric generation system and therefore increase energy conversion efficiency.
Direct solar energy collection and storage systems can store solar thermal energy in a thermal storage medium directly from the solar radiation and the heat from the thermal storage medium can be used on demand to generate electricity and heat a fluid.