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Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Lowcost Hybrid Photovoltaic/Thermal Power Products:Lowcost Hybrid Photovoltaic/Thermal Power (ST7045-1)

TerraSolar USA, Inc.


Recent interest in the solar industry supports combining photovoltaic and thermal power into a single collector (e.g., a PV/T): an approach that is promising for a number of reasons. Photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal use different portions of the solar spectrum (PV uses the visible range; thermal uses the infrared range). Yet common costs (e.g., mounting hardware) can be shared between the two systems to improve cost effectiveness. Moreover, less space is required to install a PV/T than separate PV and thermal collectors. TerraSolar, an established solar-energy company recognized for its low-cost amorphous silicon products, is interested to expand its product offerings by developing a PV/T that combines solar and thermal technologies. With existing manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and Europe, TerraSolar is now considering expanding its manufacturing capabilities into New York State.

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Project Description

TerraSolar will conduct experiments to optimize the PV portion of the collector; evaluate the use of semi-transparent and opaque PV materials for the collector; and conduct experiments to optimize the thermal power components of the PV/T collector. It will also integrate the optimized PV and thermal components into a prototype collector, and then test the prototype to quantify its performance and economics.


The proposed collector is expected to produce 60W of electrical power and 400W of thermal power per square meter, and improve the cost-effectiveness of solar energy. Manufacture of the PV/T collector will lead to the creation of new jobs in New York State.

Project Results

TerraSolar evaluated two semitransparent PV materials: amorphous silicon with a zinc oxide (a-Si/ZnO) electrical plane that permits solar radiation to reach the thermal collector, as well as standard amorphous silicon (a-Si) with material etched away to permit sunlight passing through to the thermal collector. These materials were either bonded directly to the thermal collector or attached as the glazing for the thermal collector. Standard a-Si material bonded to a thermal collector was an additional approach evaluated. Laboratory testing found the most effective configuration to be standard a-Si bonded to the thermal collector with glass glazing, followed by a-Si/ZnO material bonded to the thermal collector with glass glazing. Outdoor testing of these configurations testing found that the standard a-Si configuration yielded better electrical performance than the a-Si/ZnO configuration. However, the thermal performance of the standard a-Si configuration was lower than the a-Si/ZnO configuration. Simple economic analyses suggest markets for the standard a-Si configuration product would be limited to the following: off-grid buildings with small-roof areas and adjacent land that is not suitable for ground mounting collectors; and sites where the use of back-up systems is undesirable or to be minimized. The envisioned product might also be preferable when the aesthetics of a uniform roof appearance override economic considerations.


TerraSolar USA, Inc.
44 Court St., Tower B
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Principle Investigator

Henry Behnke

Universities Involved


Project Type:

Product Development

Technologies Types:

Building Systems
Solar Thermal (heating & cooling)

NYSERDA Contact Information

Robert Carver


R&D - Buildings Research

Contract Details

Start Date: 1/11/2010
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: ST7045-1

Last Updated: 2/4/2014 1