Brunel University is developing ‘Lego-style’ snap together solar panels that harness heat pipes to generate both heat and power. The £10m project, funded under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, hopes to drive down cost and carbon while helping to heat and power domestic and non-domestic buildings.
The modular PV panels – called PVadapt – incorporate flat head heat pipes, enabling waste heat to be turned into hot water. The pipes will also be used to cool the PV panels, making them more efficient and extending their operating life.
Under the project, the panels, which cost £260 per square meter, will be installed into eight buildings including homes, offices and shops in Spain, Greece, Austria and Portugal.
“With our system, there is no waste heat,” said technical co-ordinator, Professor Hussam Jouhara, who invented the multifunctional flat heat pipe.
“The approach focuses on low-cost, high-efficiency and modular prefabricated ‘Lego’-type construction elements for near-zero-energy buildings,” he explained.
The project involved 18 organisations from 11 countries. Professor Jouhara and the Brunel team will combine the different technologies into a prefabricated building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) energy and thermal storage system of the future. The idea is that the prefabricated panels can be ‘snapped’ into place on any rooftop.
The panels could therefore be used in social housing, public buildings and offices and and off-grid applications – and be installed very quickly.