A new generation of solar panels to reduce fossil fuel consumption

Line of people in front of solar panels

Solar energy has huge potential to reduce our reliance on polluting fossil fuels and support sustainable global development. For rural communities even access to a small amount of electricity could lead to life-saving improvements in agricultural productivity, health, education, communications and access to clean water. However solar panel systems can be expensive, inefficient and short-lived, restricting their wider application and hampering progress needed to deliver development goals.

This UK-China research and development project has paved the way for a new generation of efficient, low cost, solar panel systems that make effective use of solar energy for heating, hot water and electricity.

The team behind the project has made several technological breakthroughs such as a 55 percent higher heat transport capacity, 20 percent higher solar efficiency than in similar systems, improved quality, and a better control system.

These solar panels have been installed in 150 rural houses in China as well as a number of thriving businesses. Over 1,000 students in the UK and China have been taught how to use the technology and their new product will be included in International Energy Agency guides which make it much more likely to influence new design, practice and policy making. The project team has since secured £2 million to develop a low carbon heating system for UK public buildings and the next exciting phase for the team will be the development of commercial systems to take the product to market.

The system can maintain a very comfortable and habitable indoor environment. My chimney no longer emits black smoke and the in-house flowers bloom brightly throughout the winter.

Mr Niu of Guihua Village, Lishi City, Shanxi Province, China

A high-performance solar heat and power system employing the innovative photovoltaic/thermal technology

Project leads: Professor Xudong Zhao, University of Hull, UK and Professor Jie Ji, University of  Science and Technology of China

Delivery partners: Innovate UK and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation and the Ministry of Science and Technology, China

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