Document Type

Book Chapter


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

This chapter was originally published in Comprehensive Renewable Energy, published by Elsevier, 2012.


Mankind’s earliest use of solar energy was probably the drying of food crops to aid their preservation. Open sun drying of fruit, vegetables, fish and meats often improved or enhanced particular flavors and textures such that solely because of those attributes many dried products remain in culinary use today, as examples, dried seaweed, sun-dried tomatoes, raisins and dried pistachio nuts. Open sun drying is displaced increasingly by glazed solar dryers that (i) enable equilibrium moisture content to be reached sooner and (ii) avoid losses of the crop to insects and rodents.

A further agricultural application, the greenhouse extended the use of solar energy from post-harvest to crop-production. Today greenhouses are ubiquitous with a huge variety of designs providing a wide range of modified climates for plant growth. Solar energy also finds use in agriculture in solar water pumping for irrigation and in the desalination of brackish water.

Solar cooking has taken the use of solar energy in the food production chain directly to the end-user. Broader industrial uses of solar energy have also tended to be linked to food and beverage production because the temperatures required can be satisfied readily in many climates by a well-designed solar thermal system. Non-agricultural technologies such as solar furnaces have considerable potential but have had limited practical use to-date.

This chapter discusses the attributes, contexts and applications of the full range of industrial and agricultural applications of solar heat.