Low-Cost Building-Integrated Photovoltaic/Thermal Module Prototype Design and Analysis

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Estep, Gregory Martin
building-integrated; photovoltaic; solar; thermal; TRNSYS; Architectural Engineering; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Mechanical Engineering
thesis / dissertation description
In order to maximize solar energy gains per square foot on a residential roof, the development of a new Building-Integrated Photovoltaic/Thermal (BIPV/T) module was designed, built and tested. The concept for the design was constrained by a provisional patent entitled, Low-cost, modular mounting system for building-integrated photovoltaic/thermal collector. The novel aspect of the patent required that the framing/mounting system include an integrated heat conducting fluid conduit. Photovoltaic/Thermal collectors are capable of simultaneously producing electricity and hot water. A heat conducting fluid is passed underneath the PV laminate picking up the waste heat from the PV panel. The waste heat rejected to the fluid is useful for two reasons: 1) it cools the PV cells allowing for higher power conversion efficiencies and 2) it provides a source of heat for low-grade temperature applications. In addition to the solar performance, the building-integrated modules are to serve as façade elements, replacing traditional shingles or siding, which is accomplished by designing the frame with integrating flanges and gaskets that overlap one another providing a smooth, low-profile and aesthetic array. A prototype was fabricated by a local plastic shop and a physical experiment was built on the roof of the engineering center. Data collected from the experiment was used to calibrate a TRNSYS computer model which simulated the annual performance of a 5kW BIPV/T array on a typical American household for 20 non-freezing climate cities. The computer simulation found the BIPV/T modules were capable of meeting up to 80% of the domestic hot water load (the solar fraction), and an improved electrical power efficiency up to 2.6% in certain climates.