The sun works! We've got proof of that.
Virtually EVERY source of energy on earth (except perhaps nuclear and geothermal) has its origins somehow related to the effect of the star in the center of our SOLAR system. This STAR is otherwise known as the SUN...
So, those of us looking for alternate energy (other than oil, that is) don't have to be wrapped up in just the Photovoltaic (PV) electricity generating panel movement.
The mirrored solar concentrators (either the independently focused flat-panel mirrors or the parabolic troughs or parabolic umbrella-like units) can aim their captured solar energy onto heat-absorbing receivers--the receiving material can either be water-piping for solar water heaters or they can contain phase-change-material (PCM) that converts from solid/liguid to gas to turn electric-generating turbines.
More engineering research and work must be conducted on a larger scale for the more visible installations. Yet, some of this stuff has been around since the 1970s (fooling around and tinkering with solar energy has been going on --in the modern sense--since the 1800s). Research on these things has been more of a "grass-roots" effort--with work going on in backyards, garages, and tool-sheds. Folks have been and still are tinkering with these alternate ways to use solar energy. You could get in on this activity and save yourself a lot in energy bills! (You betchya that oil and gas prices will be moving up--it's inevitable.)
Solar energy is all about a "grass-roots" movement. Photovoltaics have the most likelihood of being "on the grid" and therefor under the scrutiny of utilities companies and government agencies. The more accessable solar-heat from solar concentrators doesn't have to be on the grid. And thus, there's probably a lot of this going on out there that our governments (and the utility companies) don't know about.
And that's what makes it FUN!
If you are one of those adventurous "Do It Yourself" persons, you can find good references with the following great sources:
Alternate Energy Resource Manual--Lots of ideas for ways you can build your own alternate energy sources for your home or small business.
Solar Power Design Manual--Teach Yourself All About Solar Power. Comprehensive Manual by Genuine Expert. Spreadsheet Included.
Renewable Energy Solutions--The Manual--The folks who put this together have been presented on TV, Google, and the New York Times as a source of Alternate Energy Information. Good stuff for those in need of Alternate Energy!