SolarWall® has been rated in the 'top two percent of energy related inventions."

- United States Department of Energy

PV/Thermal; Solar Power Wall

Electricity + Heating

SolarWall® PV/T provides up to 300% more energy (in the form of solar electricity + solar heat) than a conventional solar PV system.  The heat energy captured from the PV modules is ducted into the building’s HVAC system where it is used to displace the conventional heating load. The secondary benefit is to provide PV cooling by reducing the operating temperature of the PV modules, which improves the electrical performance.  Excess heat buildup behind PV panels is a common problem, and for every 1°C (1.8°F) above 25°C (77°F), the electrical output drops by 0.4 to 0.5 percent.

SolarWall® PV/T Value Proposition

*SolarWall® system output when combined with PV
Note: SolarWall® output without PV is 500-600 Watts/m²

The SolarWall PV/Thermal technology also produces the following additional benefits that help to accelerate the return on investment:

  • System addresses the majority of a building’s energy requirements, which is both heat and electricity

  • The PV/T system will have dramatically higher life cycle cost savings when compared to a convention PV system because of the heat energy from the SolarWall component.

  • The SolarWall thermal air panels replace the conventional racking system needed to mount PV.

  • Huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  Displacing the heating load is typically a direct source reduction from CO2 because the fuel being displaced is usually natural gas or heating oil.

  • Hedges against both electricity and heating costs

  • Also hedges against future legislation on renewable energy, GHG emissions, and energy efficiency in the building sector

  • Allows for the production of two types of solar energy from one footprint

SolarDuct® PV/T

The technology is also available in a modular roof-top configuration known as SolarDuct® PV/T. In this application, the PV modules are mounted on top of the SolarDuct units, and then heat is drawn off the back of the PV modules and ducted to the nearest rooftop air handling unit.  This “excess heat” is then channeled into the building’s HVAC system where it offsets the heating load.  Since the thermal heating panels do “double-duty” by also acting as the PV racking system, this also contributes to the cost-effectiveness of the hybrid system.  The modular units are easy to install and are angled at an ideal orientation for maximum solar gain.

Capturing the Heat & PV Cooling

Conserval Engineering originated the concept of combining PV with the SolarWall technology. The objective was to address some of the problems inherent with conventional photovoltaics, and to develop a solution that would further enhance PV as a viable renewable energy solution for regular commercial and industrial buildings. Two problems that can make PV unattractive are the lengthy payback periods and the low solar efficiencies. The solar power wall PV/T system provides a solution to both of these problems.

Typical PV modules have a solar conversion efficiency up to 15%. What happens to the rest of the sun’s energy that shines on the panels? Most of it is converted into heat energy, which normally is lost and provides no value to the system owner. As well, the heat build-up behind PV modules reduces the electrical output by 0.4-0.5% for every 1°C above its rated output temperature, which is 25°C (77°F). For every 1°C (1.8°F) above 25°C, the electrical output drops by 0.4 to 0.5 percent. A typical rooftop PV array may measure 55 to 75°C (131 to 167°F), which means its electrical output would fall by 12 to 25 per cent below the name plate rating. For example, a 10-kW array only generates 7.5 to 8.8 kW under these temperature conditions. A PV/T system lowers the photovoltaic temperature by 10 to 20°C (18 to 36°F), which increases the electrical output by five to 10 per cent, or an extra 0.5 to 1 kW for a 10-kW array.

Above, SolarWall system at Natural Resources Canada's CANMET Buidling in Ottawa. The SolarWall system was upgraded to solar power wall PV/T system in 2010, delivering both solar heated air and electricity to the building.

The performance of the SolarWall PV/T technology was established through testing at the National Solar Test Facility, in conjunction with the International Energy Agency Task 35.  The results documented that adding the SolarWall thermal component to a PV array boosts the total solar efficiency to over 50%, compared with 10 to 15% efficiency for most PV modules alone. The heat from the PV panels, captured by the SolarWall perforated absorber, was documented to be three times more than the electrical energy generated from the PV modules. This means that by being able to uniformly capture and utilize the excess heat, it becomes possible to realize an energy output improvement in the range of 200-300%, depending on air flow and other design considerations.  The test data also showed that the temperature gain from the PV modules is between 6°C to 20°C or well within the typical range for a conventional single-stage SolarWall solar heating system.

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