Solar panel manufacturer Solimpeks is offering a hybrid solar panel that is capable of providing both electricity and water heating from the same panel. The panels are ideal for applications where there is limited roof space available, but both solar electricity and solar hot water are desired. Even better, the combination of the two functions actually improves the efficiency of the electrical generation of the photovoltaics.
These hybrid panels address a problem most solar panels have: as photovoltaic (PV) panels get hotter, they get less efficient at generating electricity. A PV panel is about 1% less efficient for every 3.5 degrees F temperature increase. The Solimpeks panels address this by using water to absorb excess heat and keep the panels cooler. Water cooling is far more effective than air cooling, making this a very effective combination. The heated water is then used to provide the additional benefit of hot water for the building.
Testing has shown the efficiency of electrical generation to be as high as 28% while at the same time producing 140-160 degree F water. This works out to an improvement of 20% over a similar sized electric-only PV array, and without the added hot water benefit, either.
Keeping the panels cooler has the additional benefit of extending their lifespan, keeping them in service for a longer period of time. These panels will also be able to pay back their installation cost more quickly since they are providing both electricity and hot water.
This is an idea I had a while back. It is a simple combination that simply works. They need to be cooled down and water needs to be heated. The only other addition could be a Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Conversion System, which uses heat transfer to create electricity as well. It would be a very efficient combo.
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