Solar Electric panel or PV (Photovoltaic) panels convert sunlight to electricity. This energy supplements or replaces the electricity supplied by the utility grid. PV panels are most commonly installed on rooftops but can also be ground mounted. They are most effective with a southerly exposure that provides full sun.
Solar thermal energy, or solar hot water, uses flat collector plates to harness the sun's energy. This energy heats water for use in businesses, homes, and pools. The installation and appearance are much like those of the PV panel and the collectors. They are best installed facing south, under unobstructed sunlight. Unlike PV panels, solar thermal collectors do not convert sunlight to electricity, but transfer the energy directly to the water. Solar thermal systems displace the electricity or natural gas that would otherwise be required to heat water.