A significant breakthrough in solar technology has been made. Researchers have created a new solar photovoltaic thermal (PVT) system that more efficiently generates both electricity and heat.
Solar PVTs are generally made from crystal silicon cells, generating electricity but not much heat. But there’s a lot of focus on improving this option these days. For example, see these stories from just the past week about such solar panels:
- Here’s a Tiny Solar-Thermal System for Your Tiny House
- Hybrid Solar System to Go Online in Chiba
- Echo Solar Electric + Thermal Systems Now Available ($0 Down)
Researchers Stephen Harrison and Joshua Pearce have now designed and tested new amorphous silicon cells in a PVT system. The research observed increased heat generation in them because of their higher operating temperatures and 10 percent more solar electric output.
“These studies open up an entirely new application of amorphous silicon and make a highly-economic PVT possible,” says Dr. Pearce. “We need both solar electricity and solar heating in Canada but we are running into ‘roof real estate’ issues. Now people can have both their solar electricity and solar heating combined in a nice tidy package.”
Amorphous silicon has many distinct advantages over crystal silicon — less material is required, manufacturing it is cheaper, and there is a higher return on investment.
The research also found that amorphous silicon solar cells can be “made into thicker cells as long as they are operated at higher temperatures in the PVT system.”
The research was just published in the journals Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells and Solar Energy.