Spanish Researchers Develop a Way to Cool Solar Panels Underground

It’s easy to think that since Australia experiences a temperate climate, with an abundance of sunshine, that it’s the perfect place for solar. Hence, many households and businesses have solar systems installed—and the amount is growing. 

However, for those who haven’t taken the “solar” plunge, there’s one thing you need to know—too much sunshine is great, but our regular heat waves and often extreme summers are not good for your solar panels. Why? 

This is because solar panels can overheat, similar to your electrical system. An extensive temperature increase may reduce the efficiency in solar panels, leading to solar energy loss. 

The good news? There seems to be a way to prevent this from happening. 

Keeping things cool with a newly-developed cooling technique

University of Alcalá researchers have developed a technique that may help cool solar modules through an underground, single-phase, closed-loop heat exchanger circuit. 

It works through the application of a heat exchanger on the back side of a solar panel. This application removes the excess heat, and the heat is then transferred underground via a coolant fluid. A U-shape heat refrigerates the coolant fluid exchanged in a 15-metre borehole that contains natural water from an underground aquifer. 

The technique could reduce the temperature of a solar module between 13 C and 17 C, leading to improved performance of approximately 11 per cent. With this, for the whole day, the cooled panel can produce more watts per hour compared to an uncooled panel. 

However, the cooling technique isn’t available commercially yet. The scientists said that, should they get sufficient investment, the system may be used in various installations. 


How do solar panels overheat? 

When you speak with a solar installer, you will notice that there are two primary factors they consider when designing a solar system—light and heat. Since solar panels work by capturing light that is converted into electricity, it’s safe to say that the greater the light is, the more energy you can produce. 

However, when there’s too much solar flux, the heat will also increase, which will impact the panels’ ability to convert light into energy. This is the reason there must be good airflow where you have your solar panels installed. 

In addition, good airflow may also reduce moisture especially when it’s too humid outside. 

How to prevent overheating?

It’s not easy to prevent the overheating of solar panels because nobody really has control over the sunshine they receive. Still, there are measures in place, like the solar panels undergoing rigorous testing before they are allowed to be used in homes and businesses. 

Solar panel manufacturers do this by exposing the solar panels to high heat and humidity levels to check for their resiliency. The panels should not show a drop in efficiency; its temperature should also range from 40 C – 80 C. 

This is why you should get solar panels from trusted manufacturers. In fact, Energy Matters recommend you choose Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers because they are known to provide higher quality solar panels. 

How to know if your solar panel is overheating? 

An effective way to monitor the heat levels of your solar panels is through a monitoring system that will track temperatures in real time. When you see the working temperature higher than the acceptable range, then it’s likely that your solar panels are overheating

Another thing is to measure efficiency—if you notice a significant and sudden drop in efficiency with an increase in temperatures outdoors, then it’s likely that the solar panels are overheating. 

Cooling technologies

The cooling system recently developed by Spanish scientists isn’t the first. Over the years, there have been developments to help in cooling solar panels, such as the hollow fibre cooling system that consists of plastic tubes. The plastic tubes are also placed on the back surface of a PV panel with a coolant that flows through for efficient and uniform cooling. 

Water-cooled systems are also being sold; however, they need a lot of water and storage tanks, pumps, and pipes to run. Another cooling technology is the atmospheric water collector, which can suck water vapour from the air and condenses it into liquid water for drinking. 

Energy Matters has over 17 years of experience in the solar industry and has helped over 40,000 Australian households in their journey to energy independence.

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