The project presented focuses on improving Hybrid Photovoltaic/Thermal (PVT) Systems in terms of electrical and thermal efficiencies. Heat is known to directly affect the performance of Photovoltaic (PV) cells, hence as a novelty, this project concentrates on dissipating and reusing the heat build-up on the PV cells. Parabolic Trough PVT systems have the advantage of being able to concentrate sunlight onto a focal point to generate very high temperatures of heat. This project makes use of the Parabolic Trough design to focus sunlight along a copper pipe through which a Heat Transfer Fluid (HTF) flows to absorb the heat and dissipate it to water inside a tank through a heat exchanger. This closed loop setup is designed to achieve an important level of thermal efficiency which contributes to having a reliable heat energy source for applications such as hot showers. Using a similar principle, the PV cells to be used are to be dissipated of the heat affecting their performance and reused for other applications with heat demands.
The novel setup design will make use of PV cells (e.g. flexible PV cells) which shall take advantage of the Parabolic Trough design. Making use of such PV cells and appropriate positioning shall not limit the system’s parabolic design benefits and allow it to operate to its fullest. Side PV cells are also made available to generate electricity to meet the system’s own power consumption (pump, motors and electronics) and achieve sustainability. Different natural HTFs such as water and salt water have been experimented with and analysed as an indication of their thermal performance to find an HTF with the best thermal efficiency. Furthermore, the electrical efficiency of the system shall be evaluated through analytical positioning of the PV cells which should consider optimising the exposure of the cells to the sun without minimising the amount of reflection from the sun onto the copper pipe. Cooling techniques such as using heatsinks shall be implemented onto the PV cells for an improved electrical performance.
The motivation behind this project is to promote a zero-carbon emission environment through the use of a fully sustainable novel PVT system for electricity and heat generation. In this context, the current experimental setup has been designed using solely recycled materials which can be further reused again and again. Hence, the system’s manufacturability promises low costs and a low environmental impact with the use of recyclable materials. The system can be designed according to specific requirements which for example can be in terms of size. The modular nature of the system allows mobility, ease of use and customizability. The system can be made to fit almost every market requiring heat and electricity, be it domestic or industrial use. With the ecotourism concept, the Tourism sector is also becoming a prominent market for sustainable technologies with the important demand for electrical power and heat for applications such as hot baths, cleaning or air conditioning.