Hybrid Photovoltaic/Solar Thermal (HyPV/T) Façade Module

Thursday, 10 September 2015


Architects and Builders today are challenged to provide innovative solutions when designing energy efficient buildings. Globally there is an increasing requirement by both Governments and Industry to improve efficiency in buildings to reduce both carbon emissions and use of fossil fuels.  In Europe for example, this is driven by legislation such as the 2010/30/EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the 2012/27/EU Energy Efficiency Directive.   Market conditions worldwide are also influenced by a conviction that in general, traditional fuel prices are both likely to rise and become scarce.

Renewable Energy, building materials and energy control are equally important tools to enable better building efficiencies in intelligent buildings.  At Ulster University, a team of scientists/engineers has developed a unique solution to the challenge faced by builders and architects, combining Solar Photovoltaic and Thermal energy with energy storage technology integrated into the building envelope.

A report published in June 2015 by the International Energy Agency predicted that renewables would produce more power than coal over the next 15 years.  Within the UK, Solar PV currently has a capacity of 8GW – enough to power 2.8million homes.  This solar market sector has grown rapidly over the past 5 years, offering tremendous business opportunities for companies specialising in this field or wishing to diversify into this interesting market sector.    

Problem Being Solved

The advantages of this PV thermal combination are twofold. Firstly, the entire exposed outer absorbing surface is covered with PV cells/module thereby increasing the potential electrical output. The electricity generated is now much greater than that necessary for the pumps and therefore can be supplied to the dwelling to supplement an existing electrical load demand. Secondly, an almost symbiotic relationship exists between the thermal requirements and electrical generation. As the PV increases in temperature, a drop in the PV performance will result. However, at the predetermined temperature, the HTF will begin to boil and change from a liquid to a vapour, effectively an isothermal process. This heat extraction will prevent the PV temperature from rising (thus maintaining electrical performance) whilst still permitting heat transfer to the inner store. In summation, the HyPV/T concept can form part of the building envelope, providing the following benefits:

•                Low cost and carbon free electricity generation from the sun
•                Low cost and carbon free hot water generation from the sun
•                Thermal insulation for the building reducing heating and cooling requirements

The proposed HyPV/T façade concept used integrates the SolaCatcher technology, Integrated Collector/Storage Solar Water Heater (ICSSWH), with PVs into a single multi-functional facade element.    


The Hybrid PV/T panel incorporates a thermal diode solar water heating vessel with a PV module and integral storage element to create a flexible, multi-functional façade collector / cladding unit.  The unique collector has been developed from extensive research over the past 14 years.  The technology for the innovative storage element and heat production is based on proven technology from previous product development by the Ulster team.  The generation of electricity by the PV elements, in addition to the heat generation and storage facility of the collector, is a step improvement, giving the product additional commercial appeal.


A Building Integrated Hybrid PV/T collector will provide both heat and power. The result in an Energy Storage solution with outstanding insulation features that is a cost effective solution for both collection and storage. Due to the product life cycle capacity for providing heat and power, the Return on Investment is shorter than standard PV or Solar Thermal units. There is also a further financial advantage arising from displacing the building materials that would normally be used for cladding instead of the unit. Superior insulation of the building is also achieved due to the vacuum technology utilised, as a vacuum is the best form of insulation. The thermal energy stored can equally be used for either heating or cooling depending on the building requirements.  The Hybrid PV/T system will provide CO2 displacement with renewable energy produced on site, with the possibility of attracting RHI’s or ROCS.


  • Solar PV and Thermal Energy for commercial and domestic buildings
  •  Energy Storage for commercial and domestic buildings
  • Highly efficient building cladding for commercial and domestic building
  • Potential cooling application in addition to power and heat generation for commercial and domestic buildings    

Opportunity/Partnership Sought

Ulster University is actively seeking to establish relationships with commercial entities interested in using the Hybrid PV/T technology for use in Building Integrated Energy Systems.