All photovoltaic-thermal system designs at a glance

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An international research group has conducted a comprehensive review of all photovoltaic-thermal system designs developed to date at both the research and industry level.

In the paper “A review of solar hybrid photovoltaic-thermal (PV-T) collectors and systems,” published in Progress in Energy and Combustion Science, the scientists explained that PVT technologies may show strong potential in urban environments, which traditionally have both thermal and electrical energy demands while offering limited space for deployment.

Crucial for PVT system development will be trade-offs between heat and electricity generation, depending on different applications and environmental conditions.

“This introduces challenges for the design and operation of PV-T collectors, and solutions to overcome this conflict have been proposed, for example, through spectral splitting, amongst others,” the researchers specified.

In their work, they covered previous experimental and computational studies, identified performance enhancement opportunities, and analysed the implications of widespread deployment at the solar-generation system level.

“Specifically, we first proceed to classify and review the main types of PV-T collectors, including air-based, liquid-based, dual air-water, heat-pipe, building-integrated and CPV-T collectors,” they said. “This is followed by a presentation of techno-economic performance enhancement opportunities and pathways for collector innovation. Here, we address state-of-the-art design modifications, next-generation PV cell technologies, selective coatings, spectral splitting and nanofluids.”

Their review includes conventional PV-T collectors, air-based systems, liquid-based installations, water-based collectors, refrigerant-based systems, heat-pipe-based technologies, dual air-water systems, building-integrated PVT arrays, and concentrated PVT collectors.

Their analysis also includes possible collector modification designs, PVT configurations for glazing, novel thermal absorber technologies, and the use of phase-change materials (PCMs) and aerogels. Furthermore, it explains how new technologies such as tandem solar cells, selective coatings, spectral splitting, dichroic mirrors/filters, holographics, luminescent splitters/concentrators, nanofluids, or heat transfer and optical absorption techs may be integrated into PVT systems.

The study also provides a final overview of all conclusions drawn by the group and a series of recommendations for future further adoption of PVT technologies. Looking forward, they said more studies on the long-term operation of PV-T systems to assess the long-term reliability of PV-T collectors are strongly needed, as well as system cost assessments and certification rules for PV-T collectors.

The research group included scientists from the Imperial College London and the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, the Zhejiang University in China, Boise State University in the United States, the Cyprus University of Technology, and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia.

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