Innovative building technology for greater efficiency in photovoltaics

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Collaboration between Meyer Burger Technology and Professor Hansjürg Leibundgut from ETH.

The experts at 3S Swiss Solar Systems in Lyss for building-integrated photovoltaics and Hansjürg Leibundgut, the well-known professor for building technology at ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich), have announced their collaboration in the field of energy optimisation in buildings. Together they have developed a combination of a photo cell with a solar panel to form a “hybrid solar panel” which significantly improves the efficiency of photovoltaic installations. This collaboration has allowed 3S Swiss Solar Systems, a 100% subsidiary of Meyer Burger Technology Ltd, to extend its technical expertise as a provider of leading-edge solar systems in the field of building integration.

The combination of the new solar modules with a heat pump and a geothermal probe in a complete system not only raises the efficiency factor of the solar panels but also ensures optimum heat utilisation. The new concept lowers electricity consumption significantly and makes low-cost emission-free operation possible. The overall gain in efficiency means the building can also supply energy.

The system developed by Professor Leibundgut at the ETH in Zurich means that surplus heat from solar power generated in summer can be stored using a geothermal probe in the ground, re-utilising it in the cold months via a thermal pump. As Professor Leibundgut explains “the underground heat store is replenished by the surplus heat, thus allowing the heat pump, which extracts heat from the ground, to operate to a significantly higher level of efficiency. The cooling system provides a knock-on effect by raising the efficiency of the photovoltaic panels which in turn increases electricity yield.” The collaboration between Professor Leibundgut and the Meyer Burger Group has resulted in a rapid conversion of research results into a commercial product.

Dr. Patrick Hofer-Noser, Chief Technology Officer at the Meyer Burger Group, emphasises the advantage of the holistic energy solution. “This new system enables us to build photovoltaic systems even more easily and efficiently; this applies also to renovation projects.” Christian Renken, Managing Director of 3S Photovoltaics, adds “the new product is an ideal complement to our tried and tested Megaslate® solar roof system for generating heat and electricity, and plays a key role in emission-free energy supply“.

A prototype of the photovoltaic panels, which also supply useful heat, has already been developed. A number of tests have yielded promising results. The hybrid panels are being tested with other innovative components of modern, resource-friendly building technology as part of the “B 35” pilot project of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy. “B 35” stands for an apartment building in the Bolleystrasse in Zurich, where the new digitalSTROM system, LED domestic lighting and innovative glazing has been installed in addition to the new solar technology. The hybrid panels will be installed there in January.

Following completion of extensive field tests, 3S Swiss Solar Systems is planning serial production of the hybrid collectors at the end of 2011 and will market them under the 3S Photovoltaics brand. It also plans to grant licences to panel manufacturers around the world.

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