There are two types of solar panel, photovoltaic and thermal. Photovoltaic panels produce electricity from daylight whilst thermal panels use the heat from the Sun to provide domestic hot water. Hybrid solar panels or PVT panels combine both the photovoltaic and thermal elements of both types of panel. A solar PV-T panel can produce both heating and electricity.
The PVT solar UK market is in its infancy with no UK manufacturers in this market and the only certified panels available for use in the UK are the Turkish built Volther Hybrid PV-T range of panels. This newly emerging technology may offer many advantages over separate systems with the promising of offering more energy output for less up front investment. This new breed of solar cogeneration panels is often confused with solar hybrid cells, this terms tend to refer to solar photovoltaic panels that use a combination of traditional silicon with thin film technologies to increase productivity.
The PVT panels available in the UK are liquid PVT modules but there are several other types that have been developed. Liquid PVT panels consists of a standard silicon panel with heat conducting piping attached to the rear of the photovoltaic section. As a liquid passes through the pipes it absorbs heat from the panel heating up the liquid which can then be used for heating water for domestic use.
Similar systems exist that use air as the heat conductor, as air flows over the rear of the panel it is heated. This heated air can then be used in a heat exchanger such as heat pumps to heat water for heating or hot water. There are also PVT concentrators that work on a similar principal to solar concentrators by focussing the Suns energy on the productive area of a PV panel.
Solar cogeneration panels have the advantage of being able to produce both heating and electricity from a single panel. Combining the two renewable energy technologies means that it is cheaper to produce and therefore sell and it also means that less roof space is required. This means that for homeowners looking to install solar thermal and solar photovoltaic panels but want to reduce the expense and who may be limited by the available roof space can use solar PV/T panels instead.
Conventional photovoltaic panels only convert up to about 20% of the solar energy hitting the panel. The rest of the energy is wasted as heat. PVT panels utilise this heat that would otherwise not be utilised. As an additional benefit this reduces the operating temperature of the PV panel which makes it more efficient. Companies claim that their products increase electrical production by between 10% and 25%. Solar photovoltaic panels lose efficiency the hotter they get, power output can decrease by half a percent for every degree centigrade increase in panel temperature.
At the moment the only approved panels available in the UK are the Volther panels. There are several other models available around the world but unless they get approval under the microgeneration certification scheme you will not be able to claim the feed-in tariffs and the grants available under the renewable heat incentive scheme. It is however unclear what levels of grant you could claim under the RHI scheme as one of the systems sold by Newform Energy (the UK distributor) includes a heat pump which is also covered under the scheme.
I have had confirmation from Newform Energy that you can indeed claim both the FIT and RHI green energy payments. The feed-in tariff can be claimed for the photovoltaic component of the system and the renewable heat incentives can also be claimed for the heating component which is the thermal part of the panel and the heat pump if used with the system.
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