October 6, 2016

New Solar Panel Would Harness, Store More Energy

Traditional solar panels only absorb a certain portion of sunlight. A Purdue University professor wants to add another piece that would take some of that unused sunlight and convert it into heat. - file photo

Traditional solar panels only absorb a certain portion of sunlight. A Purdue University professor wants to add another piece that would take some of that unused sunlight and convert it into heat.

file photo

While the price of solar energy continues to drop in Indiana — down 66 percent over the past six years — the industry still faces challenges. But one Purdue University professor is trying to change that.

Peter Bermel, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, is trying to invent a new solar panel.

“So the idea is to combine different ways of converting sunlight into electricity,” Bermel says.

Traditional solar panels only absorb a certain portion of sunlight. Bermel wants to add another piece that would take some of that unused sunlight and convert it into heat—heat you could then use to power your house.

Bermel also wants to add a third component that would store that energy overnight.

“While solar is good at supplying power in the middle of the day, it’s harder without any storage to supply those beginning and end of the day points,” he says.

People tend to use the most energy at the beginning and end of the day.

Bermel’s figured out how to make each individual component of his hybrid solar energy system and is now working on integrating those pieces.  He says the system could have utility scale or rooftop applications. And it could make solar panels three times more efficient than they are now.

Bermel’s creating the hybrid system with four other Purudue researchers. He says they’re optimistic the invention will pan out.

“It’s not necessarily super easy, but I think we can do it,” he says.

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