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Kyle Tanyag

Raval, H. D., Maiti, S., & Mittal, A. (2014). Computational fluid dynamics analysis and
experimental validation of improvement in overall energy efficiency of a solar
photovoltaic panel by thermal energy recovery. Journal of Renewable & Sustainable
Energy, 6(3), 1-12. doi:10.1063/1.4885178
Technology such as solar photovoltaics (PV) panels produce one of the most limitless and
cleanest forms of energy: solar energy. However, the disadvantage to PV panels are that they can
only convert about 5%-17% of the energy derived from the sun into a reliable resource.
Inefficiency in the PV panels are caused by excessive heat from either electrical current (I)
flowing through resistance (R) or thermal energy buildup from absorbed photons. When
temperature increases in the solar cells, energy efficiency decreases. To counter these effects, a
theory has been proposed. By covering the surface of a solar panel with a thin film of running
water, excess heat can be transferred away from the panel, and solar efficiency could increase.
Experiments took place in Bhavnagar, India over an eight hour period (from 0900 h to 1700 h) to
prove this hypothesis. The primary materials used during this experiment were a 70 Wp solar PV
panel, a 5 W water pump, and a Rheostat. The PV panel was kept at a 20 inclination southward
for optimum solar exposure. The flow rate of the cooling water running down the panel varied
from either 1 liter per minute (LPM) or 2 LPM with both having a water thickness of 2 mm
running down the solar panel. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis was used to predict
and record the accumulation of heat, and the variable resistance system (Rheostat) measured the
overall V-I (Voltage-Current) performance of the panel. The results collected from the 1 LPM
test have shown that the PV panel gained at least a 20% increase in peak power while
maintaining a consistent temperature. The temperature of the cooled PV panel during the 1 LPM
flow test remained under 40 C compared to the non-cooled panel with its peak temperature at
almost 60 C. Furthermore, the 2 LPM test had shown better results in peak power and
temperature than the 1 LPM test. In addition to monitoring excessive heat, other benefits of
liquid-immersion cooling were found during testing. The refraction effect caused by the flowing
water improved concentrated photovoltaic cell electrical performance. When both panels were
kept at 35 C, the peak power output of the water-covered panel was higher than the non-covered
panel at 1300 h when the angle of refraction was 37.26. Another benefit found was that the
heated water saved from the water-cooled panels can be used for several other applications not
limited to energy efficiency like reverse osmosis and membrane distillation. In conclusion, the
overall energy efficiency from a non-cooled panel was 6.68%, but with a 1 LPM water-cooled
panel that percentage rose to 40.42%. By implementing these thin-water-filmed PV panels, PV
temperatures can be controlled, overall energy efficiency can be increased, and the thermal
energy from the flowing water can be recycled for several other useful applications.
Keywords: Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis, Solar photovoltaic panel,
Improvement in energy efficiency, Thermal energy recovery, Refraction effect