PV SunDrum Solar, the world leader in today’s hybrid solar systems, provides a unique thermal collector that is thin and flat. Its lightweight design, attaching to the underside of a standard PV, creates a hybrid module that Viridian Future proudly looks forward to utilizing as a means to discharge excess heat in its project home.

The conventional solar panel is inefficient in converting solar energy to electricity, with a yield of approximately 18%— 20%, typically 195 watts of total power—with the remainder heat gains escaping into the atmosphere. However, by contrast, SunDrum increases efficiency without creating a larger carbon footprint.

Thus, SunDrum Hybrid PV Panel’s gains are obvious. As the Sundrum collector is fitted directly underneath the PV panel, it absorbs the PV panels’ waste heat. Thus, heat is extracted, and changed to a thermal transfer fluid that passes through the thermal collector. The resulting benefits are as follows:

  • Total approximate thermal power of 435 watts (threefold improvement)
  • The PV panel is cooled (with additional electricity yield)
  • Total yield of 645 watts of power
  • Increases in electrical power offer access to functional thermal power

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SunDrum collectors can, in essence, improve the PV thermal array performance by 4-10%. The company has been doing residential installations since 2008, in states from Vermont to Hawaii; and commercial installations since 2011, including buildings such as assisted living facilities, retirement homes, and notably, Brown University Aquatics in Rhode Island. In May 2013, SunDrum marked a milestone during the peak heating hour (2-3 p.m.), collecting roughly 91% of the sun’s power on the panel, and achieving a world record of 86% solar efficiency delivered to the home (after transfer losses).


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In terms of the bottom line, the system is able to collect energy 24 hours a day, even in low-light or no-light conditions, which improves solar economics in a dramatic fashion. Tapping into the latent energy stored in the atmosphere from the sun—which most panels can not do—SunDrum takes advantage of efficiency and time in delivering the maximum amount of energy per square foot.

By layering a SunDrum panel underneath a placed solar panel, the thermal fluid channeling the lost heat—hot water—lowers, in turn, the PV panel’s temperature where the solar energy is received. The solar panel remains, roughly, at a steady 80°F (where formerly a bare panel would climb to temperatures of 125°F and/or higher). This increased power, excess operable thermal heat and trebled increase of thermal load makes opting for SunDrum an academic choice to boost existing yields on placed panels (without overheating the panels themselves).

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In addition, “passive solar energy” is collected from the air yielded by the sun. At night, the panels actually are colder than the ambient outdoor temperature, which means that heat dissipates even more efficiently. This points the way for a much brighter future, in terms of air conditioning development, which will make for even more efficient home and commercial construction.

We will be using this technology in the Viridian Future project as a hybrid with our PV panels to provide electricity, as well as hot water, for use throughout the home. In the summer, there will be a great deal of excess heat, and our client is considering putting in a hot-tub to help discharge the excess, while adding a luxury, ecofriendly feature.

*all photos are provided by SunDrum Solar 

– Alessia Pilloni