In the UK there are two types of solar panel, one that generates electricity and one that generates heat. PV/T solar is a hybrid of the two producing both heat and electricity from a single panel. This means less roof space is needed to meet the heating and power requirements that would otherwise need a larger roof to accommodate.
Although there are several companies providing commercially available systems around the world the only MCS approved systems in the UK are distributed by Newform Energy. The Volther Hybrid PV-T panels are manufactured by a Turkish company, Solimpeks, who produce the Powervolt and Powertherm panels, the H-NRG panel is manufactured by ANAF Solar from Italy. Both PowerVolt and H-NRG panels can be used in conjunction with high efficiency water/water heat pumps, enabling low grade heat produced by the panels in winter to be upgraded to useful central heating and hot water temperatures.
Solar PV-T is designed to produce both electricity and heat. One of the major benefits of this system is that it enables households with smaller roofs to benefit from solar thermal as well as solar photovoltaic where there would not ordinarily be enough space for both. These hybrid panels can provide electricity as well as generating heat to heat your home and provide hot water.
The reason the hybrid solar panels are so efficient is because they can overcome some of the problems associated with solar PV, specifically overheating. It may seem ironic to some but PV panels reduce in efficiency as the temperature of the panel exceeds 25 degrees centigrade. On a British Summer day it is not unusual for panels to reach 60 degrees. Depending on the panel you get about a half a percent drop in power output for every degree rise in temperature above 25 degrees.
To overcome this problem photovoltaic panels can be cooled which can increase electrical yield by as much as 40 percent. Hybrid PV-T panels use this extra heat to provide your heating and domestic hot water. Combining these PV and thermal abilities into a single panel increases the electrical efficiency of the panel producing more power compared to the equivalent same sized panel.
As yet the only PV-T panels that are MCS approved are being distributed by Newform Energy in the UK. Unfortunately no companies are yet offering these hybrid panels under any of the free solar panel schemes currently run by free solar panel installers, though Newform Energy have indicated they would be interested to discuss this eventuality, as they have a significant pipeline of interest for 'free PV-T'.
As MCS approved hybrid panels produce both heat and electricity you will benefit under the governments feed-in tariff system as well as the renewable heat incentive that pays you for generating heat from renewable technologies. This essentially means a quicker payback time for your initial installation investment.
The ANAF H-NRG panel has peak electrical capacity of 230 watts, and thermal capacity of 700-800 watts, depedning on configuration. The Volther PowerTherm panel is capable of producing 175 watts of electricity and 680 watts thermal. The Volther PowerVolt is designed with a higher electrical output at 190 watts per panel and only 460 watts thermal. Newform Energy state that these panels can produce up to 30 percent more electricity than an equivalent PV panel at peak irradiance, though annual average output is about 12% higher. This essentially means that you can produce the same amount of energy from 16 square metres of roof space where it would usually require an area of 22 square metres with conventional photovoltaics and solar thermal.
They also offer a system that combines a heat pump to work with the PowerVolt or H-NRG hybrid panels. As a combined system they produce overall greater efficiency than otherwise would be obtained from a separate heat pump, solar thermal panel and solar PV panel. More details of their hybrid solar solution can be found here.
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