Sunlight, the easiest to approach and our planet’s primary source of energy, has been harvested in many ways since ages. Our century wants to rely on photovoltaic panels, which are the most advanced form of harvesting the sunlight ever created by man.
Making electricity out of light sounds nice, but when it comes to facts, it’s not to simple anymore. Photovoltaic panels have limited efficiency, ranging from 5-6% to 42 percent in the case of the best and most expensive. That efficiency, though low in most of the cases, can be partially ruined by the solar cells’ inability to do their best at high temperatures. Every 10 degree raise in temperature means a loss of approximately 5 percent of electricity output for the solar panel.
Many research groups from various companies have tried to recover the energy that is lost both by the PV cells’ high temperature effect and by thermal means, into the air. Most tried cooling the cells with a liquid, and then using the liquid’s heat in other applications (such as heating of homes).
Solimpeks Corp., a Turkish company, has styled their so called “Volther hybrid solar collection system” in the same fashion, by cooling the PV panels and improving the entire system’s efficiency. The Hybrid PV/Ts are best suited for individual homes. The electricity could be stored in batteries or by making hydrogen out of water through efficient electrolysis, while the thermal energy can be stored in underground molten salts.
The company says that the ROI (Return on Investment) on their system is much improved by the fact that it has increased efficiency. They also say that an average family’s entire energy needs for a year can be covered with only 25 square meters of Hybrid PV/T collectors.
I like projects and approaches that are oriented not so much on megawatt-like figures, but rather on a more simplistic and realistic approach, like how much a normal family consumes throughout a year and so. And I also find Solimpeks’ approach worth trying, especially in temperate climates, where you need both electricity and heat.0