Brunel University is creating ready-made Lego-style solar panels that can be snapped-in together for use. The ‘PVadapt’ panels can turn waste heat into hot water and electricity and are being developed as a part of a £10 million sustainable energy scheme which will start next month.
In the backdrop of the energy use in buildings predicted to double and even triple by 2050, the scheme dubbed as PVadapt promises to solve several sustainable energy problems. The three and a half-year multi-disciplinary project funded by Horizon 2020 aims to perfect a flexible and effective solar-powered renewable energy system.
The PVadapt panels would blend photovoltaic (PV) cells with flat heat pipes. The heat pipes would transfer unwanted heat away from surfaces. They’re deployed in the industry to cool electronic devices, used in everything from PCs to the International Space Station. The project will entail heat pipes to cool the PV cells themselves, which would make them more efficient and extend their lifespan. The PV panels without the cooling system would become less efficient, the more heat they soak up, the more energy they would produce, but the less they convert into electricity. The new design with heat pipes’ help would take away the excess heat and use it to produce the hot water for the building.
Professor Hussam Jouhara, Technical coordinator and inventor of the Flat Heat Pipes stated that their solar panels were PV-coated for the roof’s most southerly-facing aspect. They are also said to be designed as a weather-tight roof to clip together like Lego or laminate flooring. He added that the approach focused on low-cost, high-efficiency, and modular prefabricated Lego-type construction elements for near-zero-energy buildings.
Jouhara and his Brunel University team would use the panels to create the prefabricated building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) energy and thermal storage system. The panels would cost £260 per square meter and be deployed in social housing, offices, public buildings, and off-grid sites.
Meanwhile, PVadapt is said to be the result of efforts from 18 organizations from 11 different countries. The click-in-place solar panels are installed on the roofs of eight buildings in Greece, Spain, Austria, and Portugal.