Researcher Joshua Pearce from Michigan Technological University has been working on solving a long-standing problem in solar technology:
On one hand, solar thermal systems can harvest more energy in form of hot water than photovoltaic systems can generate in terms of electricity, but electric power is valued higher in monetary terms. Yet the average household (and industry) needs both.
Up to now, a choice had to made as to which technology was chosen for roof space, but this new solar photovoltaic thermal energy system (PVT) works with a different kind of silicon compared to earlier such models, and efficiency has been greatly increased. This new cells is incorporating thin-film silicon in a new type of PVT which seems to overcome many of the previously encountered problems.
“They give you the most usable solar energy per square foot of roof space,” Pearce said. “I think that 20 years from now, every roof will be made of integrated PVT.”
Pearce has published two articles on this research, “The Effect of Hybrid Photovoltaic Thermal Device Operating Conditions on Intrinsic Layer Thickness Optimization of Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon Solar Cells,” in the journal Solar Energy, coauthored with Pathak, Girotra and S. J. Harrison; and “Effects on Amorphous Silicon Photovoltaic Performance from High-Temperature Annealing Pulses in Photovoltaic Thermal Hybrid Devices” in the journal Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, coauthored with Pathak and Harrison.