Solar panels are a dream method of energy production. They harness a resource which for all intensive purposes is unlimited. Sunlight has a worldwide availability that is almost guaranteed fifty percent of the time, yet solar energy generation is still relatively under used when compared to its potential. Whilst some may presume the price tag that comes along with harnessing free energy prevents investment, it is the inefficient nature of standard photovoltaic (PV) cells within solar panels that constrains widespread solar employment.
Whilst heat is an energy source that can be harnessed, within a solar panel increased temperature decreases the amount of energy it can produce. Excessive heat can see a panel’s efficiency reduce by up to twenty five percent, limiting its production when its resource is at its most plentiful. Due to the fact heat is an inescapable factor when rendering sunlight, several attempts have been made towards addressing this issue. By raising a panel from the roof conductive airflow can reduce the heat absorption, increasing efficiency. Also insulating and isolating parts of the module in shade can also help. However, this approach does little to address the matter at hand, acting only as a mild defence. A large percentage of the light energy is converted into heat on contact with the panel, which means even flawlessly insulated solar panels are inefficient relative to the potential energy content of sunlight that theoretically could be harnessed. This is where Naked Energy, a design and innovation company focused on renewable energy and energy conservation, offers a solution to this cause. They may provide a solution that allows the utilization of both thermal and light energy simultaneously.
Conventionally, to exploit both the heat and light energy of the sun, two separate panels are required: thermal and PV panels. Yet this still reduces the optimum efficiency by ineffectively using space, an important commodity when considering industrial applications of solar energy. The Naked Energy’s new Photovoltaic thermal (PVT) panel, called Virtu, uses a single panel to achieve both jobs utilizing the heat as an energy source. Primarily, the heat is drawn away from the PV elements of the design within a vacuum tube. This increases electricity production of PVT panels alone by up to forty percent compared to standard PV panels. This method of cooling is thermally driven so that the previous disadvantageous heating actually acts as self-preserving mechanism for electricity production. Furthermore, the removal of heat acts to protect and increase the longevity and performance of the unit. Unlike light, heat is already in an energy form highly useful to humans. As such this product simply acts to collect it oppose to converting it into electricity. This thermal energy can then be used in space heating, hot water and desalination. Though theoretically, this could be modified towards an industrial focus of total electricity production, and likewise Virtu vacuum technology can be repurposed towards total heat collection as well.
Whilst the Virtu may seem like a showpiece, it is a brilliant example of engineering overcoming wastefulness, a self-cleaning outer case, thermally driven heat protection, the list goes on. This showpiece is designed to be affordably produced on a large scale, and for the average consumer. However, investment is first required before solar power can be revolutionized. With Internet mega giants Google investing eighty million dollars toward solar power with a total investment in renewable energy exceeding one billion dollars, this sector is fast becoming a respected and profitable one. And with the obvious advantages that PVT panels provide, coupled with the observable changes in opinion toward renewable energies like solar, investment is hopefully inevitable.
With the potential of solar energy finally becoming realized as an efficient method of powering our homes and cities, how long will the average person have to wait before electricity can be described as home-made?