Solar panels generate a great deal of waste heat, so why not use that heat to also perform another task solar energy has been used for decades to do – heat water.
The Technique Solar Module (TSM), based on technology developed at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, is a combination solar electricity and solar hot water system. The panels feature a series of channels, each with a concentrating acrylic lens and reflective walls to focus the sun’s rays onto a strip of solar cells.
The solar cells generate electricity and a heat exchanger located beneath the cells is used to heat circulating water that is then stored in a tank, ready for use.
The company says TSM technology requires fewer solar cells to produce the same equivalent electrical energy as the traditional flat plate PV array of the same area and a solar conversion efficiency between 50% – 60% compared with an efficiency typically ranging between 15% -18% for conventional solar panels can be achieved. It should be noted most of that conversion goes towards the water heating aspect rather than electricity generation with each 3.5 square metre Technique Solar Module generating 400 watts as electrical power and 1700 watts of heat power.
The Technique Solar Module will deliver an energy output the company says which has an average cost per kwhr competitive with the cost of nominally 20 cents per kwhr for energy currently delivered by the Australian electricity grid.
However, don’t expect to be able to buy this the equipment off the shelf as you can do with solar panels or evacuated tube systems. Technique Solar says the business model to be used for the rollout will be as an ownership/leasing arrangement by an electricity company, council, government or large corporates who will then arrange for installation onto residential, commercial and industrial buildings.
As well as local interest, the TSM has had interest from Northern India, China and the USA.