New solar panel stores both electricity and heat

A new type of solar panel has been developed at SINTEF, the first to store both electricity and heat. Moreover, researchers have succeeded in increasing its output dramatically by providing the panel with its own cooling system. Christina Benjaminsen reports from Norway.

Photo: Thor Nielsen

All over the world people are moving to the cities. This increases the demand for eco-friendly and locally-sourced electricity, and is the basis for the research project called PV-Adapt.

One answer to new energy demands is to install building-integrated PV (BIPV) cells, either in the form of roof tiles or facade elements. However, the feasibility of this will require lower costs and more efficient output.

Building-integrated PV cells that supply both heat and electricity have been developed at SINTEF’s (independent industrial and technical research organisation) solar cell lab in Trondheim, Norway. The project has 17 other partners in ten countries.

“The concept involves a modular construction that makes it easy both to install and remove roof- and facade-mounted PV cells”(Research Scientist Martin Bellmann, SINTEF).

“Our aim is to manufacture self-cooling, building-integrated PV cells. Self-cooling will dramatically increase the electrical output of the cells”, explains SINTEF Project Manager Martin Bellmann.

The PV cells become very hot even if the outside temperature isn’t particularly high. On a good day, according to SINTEF, its test panels may often reach temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius. However, this heat causes output to fall from 16 to 12 per cent. This is the reason why the new PV cells are fitted with a separate component to cool them down.

Moreover, the new solar panel stores the heat generated as the sun shines on it. This means that the maximum output can be extracted.
This is achieved using an integrated tubing system that serves as a heat exchanger enabling it to heat water, for example.

The tubing system is being developed by Brunel University in London and Flint Engineering. The solar panels are supplied by the French company Apollo Solar, while SINTEF is developing the system used to integrate the tubing network in the PV cells. The demonstration projects have proven a high TRL (Technology Readiness Level).

“The concept involves a modular construction that makes it easy both to install and remove roof- and facade-mounted PV cells”, explains Bellmann.

It will now be tested and verified at SINTEF’s own full-scale facility at Gløshaugen in Trondheim.
“There we will not only be able to look into how the panels work under real-life conditions, but also to test different types of installation. This may have major significance for the performance of the PV cells”, explains Bellmann’s colleague Eivind Øverlid, a Research Manager at SINTEF.

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