Chromasun Harvests Sun’s Heat & Photons with Hybrid Concentrated Solar Photovoltaic — Thermal Modules

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Image courtesy Chromasun

Combining solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar thermal technology to harvest the sun’s energy and generate both electrical power and power for cooling and heating can boost the overall energy conversion of a power system 3x or more. That offers a lot of leeway in terms of market-competitive production and balance of system costs.

Chromasun’s looking to capitalize on these potential energy conversion efficiency gains, most recently with the “the world’s first installation of a hybrid photovoltaic panel coupled with a solar thermal cooling system.” A commercial launch of its MCT Hybrid Collector is expected in 2012.

CHP with CPVT Grid Competitive with Zero Subsidies

The latest field test of Chromasun’s new MCT Solar Thermal Panel Cooling System follows on research and development work Chromasun completed with The Australian National University and The University of New South Wales. Hybrid solar energy receivers were first developed and installed in standard Chromasun MCT Collectors and then mounted for testing and data collection at Santa Clara University’s 2007 Solar Decathlon House in San Jose. The project was announced in September 2010.

“This project is the first of its kind and uses the newly developed Chromasun hybrid photovoltaic panels and solar cooling system. By using the sun’s energy to generate electricity and then diverting waste heat to drive an absorption chiller, Chromasun can deliver more useful energy into the building than has ever been possible before,” Chromasun CEO Peter Le Relieve stated in a news release.

“This is especially useful for facilities with large electricity and cooling loads. While traditional photovoltaic panels may only harvest 15% of the sun’s energy, newer hybrid technologies harvest over 75%. Put simply, your roof can work harder for you.”

A field test and cost-benefit analyst of Chromasun’s MCT concentrated PV thermal technology (CPVT) carried out by a GE Research team in Bangalore, India resulted in them concluding “that PVT-based CHP (Combined Heat and Power) can be grid-competitive without government subsidies.” By taking advantage of government subsidies favoring development and adoption of clean, renewable energy, “this technology can provide electrical power and heating at a significantly cheaper rate compared to the grid.”

With this latest project at SCU, Chromasun’s aim is “to demonstrate how even a small roof area can satisfy a large proportion and variety of energy demands typically found in modern buildings.”

The new MCT Hybrid collectors are connected to both a Yazaki 5RT single effect chiller and a Sunny Boy inverter. Water at 195 degrees F is supplied by the MCT Hybrid panels to the chiller and 250-volt DC electricity is supplied to the inverter. Hot water is collected in a storage tank and is also available for domestic supply and hydronic heating as needed.

“I think the MCT Hybrid project represents the best opportunity that I know for establishing hybrid rooftop concentrators to provide greenhouse neutral energy independence,” said Dr. Vernie Everett from the Australian National University.

“An integrated system comprising several MCT units can provide all the electricity, hot water, space heating, and solar cooling for conventional houses. The range of units developed also has industrial applications for hospitality, food processing, hospitals, and sports centers to name just a few.”

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