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Researcher Martin Bellmann demonstrating the solar panel that can achieve maximum output because it has been fitted with its own cooling system. The panel was developed at SINTEF’s solar cell lab. (Photo: Thor Nielsen)

This solar panel is the first in the world to store both electricity and heat

Moreover, researchers have succeeded in increasing its output dramatically by providing the panel with its own cooling system.

All over the world people are moving to the cities. This increases the demand for eco-friendly and locally-sourced electricity, and is the basis for the research project called PV-Adapt.

One answer to new energy demands is to install building-integrated PV (BIPV) cells, either in the form of roof tiles or facade elements. However, the feasibility of this will require lower costs and more efficient output.

Building-integrated PV cells that supply both heat and electricity have been developed at SINTEF’s solar cell lab in Trondheim. The project has 17 other partners in ten countries.

An illustration from the PV-adapt project, which is a major EU project involving several partners from many countries.

“Our aim is to manufacture self-cooling, building-integrated PV cells. Self-cooling will dramatically increase the electrical output of the cells,” explains SINTEF Project Manager Martin Bellmann.

The PV cells become very hot even if the outside temperature isn’t particularly high.

On a good day, according to SINTEF, its test panels may often reach temperatures of 60 degrees. However, this heat causes output to fall from 16 to 12 per cent.

This is the reason why the new PV cells are fitted with a separate component to cool them down.

Moreover, the new solar panel stores the heat generated as the sun shines on it. This means that the maximum output can be extracted.

This is achieved using an integrated tubing system that serves as a heat exchanger enabling it to heat water, for example.

“The concept involves a modular construction that makes it easy both to install and remove roof- and facade-mounted PV cells.”

Research scientist Martin Bellmann, SINTEF

The tubing system is being developed by Brunel University in London and Flint Engineering. The solar panels are supplied by the French company Apollo Solar, while SINTEF is developing the system used to integrate the tubing network in the PV cells. The demonstration projects have proven a high TRL (Technology Readiness Level).

Modular construction

“The concept involves a modular construction that makes it easy both to install and remove roof- and facade-mounted PV cells”, explains Bellmann.

It will now be tested and verified at SINTEF’s own full-scale facility at Gløshaugen in Trondheim.

“There we will not only be able to look into how the panels work under real-life conditions, but also to test different types of installation. This may have major significance for the performance of the PV cells,” explains Bellmann’s colleague Eivind Øverlid, a Research Manager at SINTEF.

The project was launched last autumn, and is receiving NOK 92 million in funding as part of the EU’s Horizon programme.

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