Photovoltaic thermal hybrid solar collector
Photovoltaic thermal hybrid solar collectors, sometimes known as hybrid PV/T systems or PVT, are systems that convert solar radiation into thermal and electrical energy. These systems combine a solar cell, which converts sunlight into electricity, with a solar thermal collector, which captures the remaining energy and removes waste heat from the PV module. The capture of both electricity and heat allow these devices to have higher exergy and thus be more overall energy efficient than solar photovoltaic (PV) or solar thermal alone. A significant amount of research has gone into developing PVT technology since the 1970s.
Photovoltaic cells suffer from a drop in efficiency with the rise in temperature due to increased resistance. Such systems can be engineered to carry heat away from the PV cells thereby cooling the cells and thus improving their efficiency by lowering resistance. Although this is an effective method, it causes the thermal component to under-perform compared to a solar thermal collector. Recent research showed that photovoltaic materials with low temperature coefficients such as amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) PV allow the PVT to be operated at high temperatures, creating a more symbiotic PVT system. This advantage can be tuned by controlling the dispatch strategy of thermal annealing cycles.
A number of PV/T collectors in different categories are commercially available and can be divided into the following categories:
- PV/T liquid collector
- PV/T air collector
- PV/Ta Liquid and air collector
- PV/T concentrator (CPVT)
PV/T liquid collector
The basic water-cooled design uses conductive-metal piping or plates attached to the back of a PV module. The fluid flow arrangement through the cooling element will determine which systems the panels are most suited to.
In a standard fluid based system, a working fluid, typically water, glycol or mineral oil is then piped through these pipes or plate chillers. The heat from the PV cells are conducted through the metal and absorbed by the working fluid (presuming that the working fluid is cooler than the operating temperature of the cells). In closed-loop systems this heat is either exhausted (to cool it), or transferred at a heat exchanger, where it flows to its application. In open-loop systems, this heat is used, or exhausted before the fluid returns to the PV cells. It is also possible to disperse nanoparticles in the liquid to create a liquid filter for PV/T applications. The basic advantage of this type of split configuration is that the thermal collector and the photovoltaic collector can operate at different temperatures.
PV/T concentrator (CPVT)
A concentrating system has the advantage to reduce the amount of solar cells needed. It also can get very good solar thermal performance compared to flat PV/T collectors. The main obstacles are to provide good cooling of the solar cells and a durable tracking system. For more details, see the discussion of CPVT within the article for concentrated photovoltaics.
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