UK renewables company Naked Energy has invented Virtu, a hybrid solar panel that simultaneously heats water and generates electricity.
The technology, developed by Naked Energy’s chief engineer Richard Boyle, integrates an electricity-generating photovoltaic cell into a hot-water-generating solar thermal panel. The solar thermal panels are placed into vacuum tubes and are unaffected by ambient temperature.
Nick Simmons, chief financial officer of Naked Energy, told The Engineer: ‘We can create more useful energy per square metre than conventional panels on the market today.’
Through combining the two technologies, Boyle was able to address one of the fundamental problems facing photovoltaic cells.
‘When photovoltaic panels get hot they become less efficient. For every 1º rise in temperature [from 25°C], you lose half a percentage point of efficiency,’ said Simmons. ‘A very efficient photovoltaic panel has a maximum efficiency of approximately 18 per cent. But by the time you get up to 65°C, which is quite a normal temperature on the face of a solar panel, you’re down to something like four per cent efficiency.’
Readers’ comments include
Anonymous | 27 Mar 2012 1:06 pm
Brilliant device. Congratulations to all concerned. Now just build a great big factory to produce them here in the UK and export them round the world. Perfect.
Trevor Best | 27 Mar 2012 4:22 pm
About time too! Having one system on the roof to do one thing when there is a need for two systems, electric and generation and hot water was always half a job and a waste of space. The report is very illuminating where it states only 4% effectiveness when the photovoltaic panels get hot. Companies who supply these systems seem to have forgotten to mention this!!