The photovoltaic method directly transfers the sun’s power into electricity. This process uses solar cells, or photovoltaic cells to trap the sun’s heat. They are often silicon-based with wide surface area for maximum heat absorption from the sun’s rays. This method traps electricity directly, instead of using the warmth created from the sun in the thermal method. The number of these cells which is contained in one panel differs depending on the size of the panel, but these cells can be interlinked and combined for a greater production power.
Solar Thermal Method
The solar thermal method uses the sun’s energy to directly generate heat. This process works by using solar panels to collect the heat from the sun. This heat is captured and then transferred to water tanks for heating and distribution through the rest of the house. This means that production maximizes absorption of the heat generated by sun throughout the day, so energy is available for night time use as well. The tubes which absorb this energy are called thermal collectors. The in-direct alternative to this production method is using anti-freeze instead of water. Once the sun has warmed this liquid, the heat gained from this process is transferred to water held in a tank.
(Information from Biofuelswatch)