Hybrid Solar Panels Yield Electricity, Hot Water

Multitasking is a highly desired skill. Doing two things at once usually means doubling productivity. This ability is a valuable trait in people, because it means they use their time efficiently. It’s an even more valuable characteristic for energy-producing technologies because it means getting more power in less time and, typically, with less financial investment.

Naked Energy, a British company, has made a name for itself by developing a tubular hybrid solar panel that can do twice the work of a traditional flat photovoltaic panel. The product, called Virtu, can generate electricity and hot water simultaneously. The company, led by chief engineer Richard Boyle, believes that this unique product combines the design and process needed to achieve an effective thermal transfer system.

Virtu Solar Thermal System

image via Naked Energy

The Virtu isn’t the only hybrid solar panel on the market. Cogenra Solar, for instance, has installed a combination photovoltaic and hot water heating system at the Kendall-Jackson winery near Santa Rosa, Calif., providing electricity and hot water for a bottling and blending facility. But Virtu claims some advantages over its competition.

As indicated in this review, the company’s patented “thermosyphon” technology harvests unwanted heat from the photovoltaic cell to heat up water. As a result of taking the heat away and cooling down the photovoltaic cell, it is possible to generate more electricity than conventional photovoltaic cells.

Both energy outputs are optimized replacing the need for two separate systems (photovoltaic and thermal solar), dramatically reducing installation time and cost while maximizing useable installation area. Since return on investment is paramount to those currently utilizing fossil fuels, this multi-tasking technology could be a big breakthrough for the solar power industry.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog


  • Reply April 26, 2012


     are you no in texas

  • Reply April 26, 2012


    Great idea – but I always worry about multitasking – all to often it means being less than good at more than one thing at a time. Hope I’m proved wrong on this one. We hope to sell our current home and build an off-grid home with holiday apartment within the next two years – I’ll be watching this one closely.

    • Reply April 27, 2012


      I think the whole point here is that on the PV side at least the result is better.  I grant there seems to be no statement of comparison between the water heating aspect and traditional solar water heating.

      Given the duality I would expect (as a purchaser) a CAPEX reduction.

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