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Keywords:

  • photovoltaics;
  • hybrid PV/T systems;
  • PV performance;
  • life-cycle assessment;
  • solar system economics;
  • environmental impact;
  • PV air-cooling

Abstract

An alternative and cost-effective solution to building integrated PV systems is to use hybrid photovoltaic/thermal (PV/T) solar systems. These systems consist of PV modules with an air channel at their rear surface, where ambient air is circulating in the channel for PV cooling and the extracted heat can be used for building thermal needs. To increase the system thermal efficiency, additional glazing is necessary, but this results in the decrease of the PV module electrical output from the additional optical losses of the solar radiation. PV/T solar systems with air heat extraction have been extensively studied at the University of Patras. Prototypes in their standard form and also with low-cost modifications have been tested, aiming to achieve improved PV/T systems. An energetic and environmental assessment for the PV and PV/T systems tested has been performed by the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, implementing the specific software SimaPro 5·1 regarding the life-cycle assessment (LCA) methodology applied. In this paper electrical and thermal energy output results for PV and PV/T systems are given, focusing on their performance improvements and environmental impact, considering their construction and operation requirements. The new outcome of the study was that the glazed type PV/T systems present optimum performance regarding energy, cost and LCA results. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.