Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon PV as an Absorber Coating for Photovoltaic Thermal Systems
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Driven by the limitations of solar-optimized roof space and International Energy Association (IEA) Task 35, there is a renewed interest in photovoltaic solar thermal (PVT) hybrid systems. Current PVT systems focus on cooling the solar photovoltaic (PV) cells to improve the electrical performance. This however, causes the thermal component (T) to underperform. An exergetic study was completed comparing a PVT, PV + T and a PV only system in Detroit, Denver and Phoenix. It was found that the PVT system outperformed the PV + T system by 72% for each location and by 8, 8.6 and 9.9% for Detroit, Denver and Phoenix when compared to the PV only system. To further improve the PVT system, using hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) PV as the absorber layer of the solar thermal device was explored. The temperature coefficient and annealing properties of a-Si:H allow the thermal component to run more efficiently, while enabling the a-Si:H i-layers to be thicker resulting in more electricity production. It was found that running i-layer thicker cells (630nm and 840nm) stabilized at higher efficiencies at 90°C (potential PVT operating temperatures) than the thinner cell (420nm) by 2% and 0.5% respectively. In addition, spike annealing, which is a new concept of stagnating a PVT system to allow for the a-Si:H PV to anneal and return it to its original efficiencies was also investigated. It was found that over the lifetime of the system with the spike annealing occurring once a day 10.6% more electricity was produced than a system without stagnation.