Queen’s researchers boost power of solar PVT systems

Amorphous silicon increases electric, heat generation at lower manufacturing cost.

Comments Off on Queen’s researchers boost power of solar PVT systems July 11, 2012
by Design Engineering Staff

Queen’s University announced that two of its researchers have made a breakthrough in solar photovoltaic thermal (PVT) — systems that generate both electricity and heat. Stephen Harrison and Joshua Pearce (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) have designed and tested amorphous silicon cells in a PVT system. PVTs are normally made with crystal silicon cells which generate electricity, but little heat. Their research shows increased heat generation because of higher operating temperatures and 10 per cent 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.”

The amorphous silicon has several advantages over crystal silicon. It requires less material, costs less to manufacture and offers a higher return on investment. The research also shows 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 published in Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells and Solar Energy.