Aiming to bring about the next step in the evolution of solar panels is the collaboration of Weidlinger Associates, Inc., a consulting engineering firm, and Columbia University’s Professor Huiming Yin. The objective: to integrate “hybrid” solar panels into buildings which ncorporate solar and thermodynamic energy technologies. A press release issued by Weidlinger Associates announces that they, along with Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, received a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to expedite research on this new hybrid panel designed by Professor Yin. New York State has donated an additional 10 percent of the grant.

Feniosky Peña-Mora, dean of Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, is pleased with the collaboration between Columbia and Weidlinger Associates. “This new generation of solar panels to be developed from this collaboration will be able to produce both electricity and hot water, paving the way for large-scale changes in the housing industry that will bring sustainable energy to a new level,” said Peña-Mora on the Fu Foundation’s website.

hybrid solar panel
Image via Fu Foundation

As seen on The Green Optimistic, Yin’s panel is comprised of several layers. From top to bottom: a thin, clear protective layer; photovoltaic cells; a hybrid layer consisting of thermoelectric materials and tubes through which water flows, cooling all other layers; and finally a thin layer of plastic to enclose the top layers. Prototypes of Yin’s hybrid panel have been constructed and will be installed atop a structure on the roof of the Frederick Douglass Academy. The goal of the testing phase is to measure the amount of energy stored against its operating costs, which Yin hopes will be significantly lesser than those of state-of-the-art solar panels.

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