Japan has jumped on the bandwagon and started using its summer heat as a force for good instead of evil. How so? Well, one of the main reasons solar cells lose efficiency is heat — the temperature rises, and the process doesn’t work quite as well. As heat is part of the sunlight package, one way of approaching the problem is to turn that thermal energy into electricity as well, which is exactly what Hibiya Engineering and NTT Facilities have done.
The prototype hybrid solar system will go online in Noda City, Chiba Prefecture this month. It’s supposed to have a rated power output of 2.4kW. Based on the results of the current test run, the goal is to commercialize the system by the end of next year.
Hybrid Solar FTW?
The hybrid system is another version of a double-sided solar panel. The front is a perfectly normal solar panel, but heat acquisition modules are affixed to the rear. The effect is supposed to be three-fold. First, overall conversion efficiency should be up to 40%. Second, power loss due to rising temperatures in the solar cells should be mitigated. Third, energy from the heat is expected to be directly applicable to demands for hot water and climate control. In other words, solar panels plus solar water heaters makes a hybrid solar system.
During the testing phase, Hibiya expects the system to be able to work more efficiently than a standard system. Overall conversion efficiency will be evaluated, along with the power generation capacity and the potential hot water supply. The system is expected to be particularly useful in summer (and Japanese summer, if nothing else, is ridiculously hot).
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