Solar photovoltaic-thermal (PV/T) modules are designed to generate electricity and heat energy simultaneously, unlike conventional solar modules which generate one or the other.
Standard solar PV modules generate electricity, but their efficiency in converting sunlight to electricity is generally 15% or less. The other 85%+ of energy absorbed by the module is converted to heat, which is lost to the atmosphere by radiation and convection.
PV/T is a technology designed to collect a substantial fraction of the heat which would otherwise be wasted, at temperatures which are useful for such applications as space heating and water heating. The collected heat can be transferred to the point of use in a liquid medium, such as a water-antifreeze solution, or can be transferred in air.
In our method, a standard photovoltaic (PV)
panel is fitted with heat transfer plates and tubing through which flows a heat
transfer fluid to carry the heat where it can be used. The cost of the heat-gathering
alteration is only a small fraction of the cost of the baseline PV panel, yet, the thermal energy collected has equal or greater economic value than the electricity.