Many people believe that the more sunlight there is, the better their solar panels will work, but that isn’t generally the case. In fact, for most solar panels, photovoltaic cells heating up causes their efficiency to decrease. But new technology has now been developed by a team at Brunel University London, which captures the heat for use through a hybrid system that basically converts the roof into a solar generator.
This patented technology generates electricity and heats water using flat heat pipes with PV cells. The pipes are there to transfer the heat away from places it isn’t needed, like computers, space, and data centers. They measure 4mm (0.4cm) x 400mm (40cm), in order to maximize their solar radiation collection.
The pipes take the heat away from the photovoltaic cells, where efficiency is lost, and transfer it to heating water and generating electricity where it is actually needed. This severely cuts the decreased efficiency caused by the heated cells. While they tested the product, researchers also found that the pipe technology helped those cells cool 15% more than the standard.
“Currently the panels would get hottest in the summer and roofs need to be designed to dissipate that heat,” says Dr. Hussam Jouhara, who specializes in heat pipe technology and led the scientific team. “Simply insulating the house below is not a good solution as that simply traps it driving up the PV panel temperature and further lowering its performance. With our system there is no waste heat.”
This technology is also much easier to install than the standard solar panels.
“Our solar panels are PV coated for the most southerly-facing aspect of the roof and are designed to clip together as a weather-tight roof as simply as clicking together laminate flooring,” says Dr. Jouhara.
They are currently testing a prototype, which will be tested using a standard, detached home by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in Watford, England. Already, the team is noticing that the system is doing better than they predicted.
“Our flat heat pipes are so efficient that they can actually capture the energy from early morning dew evaporating off the trial roof,” Dr. Jouhara says.
Roofing is essential to any home, as a new roof adds a 75% return on investment. Those considering their roofing options just may want to hold off and take advantage of the amazing capabilities of this new technology.