Building applied photovoltaic array: thermal modeling and fan cooling

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Thermal modeling and investigation into heat extraction methods for building-applied photovoltaic (BAPV) systems have become important for the industry in order to predict energy production and lower the cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of generating electricity from these types of systems.

Thermal modeling and investigation into heat extraction methods for building-applied photovoltaic (BAPV) systems have become important for the industry in order to predict energy production and lower the cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of generating electricity from these types of systems. High operating temperatures have a direct impact on the performance of BAPV systems and can reduce power output by as much as 10 to 20%. The traditional method of minimizing the operating temperature of BAPV modules has been to include a suitable air gap for ventilation between the rooftop and the modules. There has been research done at Arizona State University (ASU) which investigates the optimum air gap spacing on sufficiently spaced (2-6 inch vertical; 2-inch lateral) modules of four columns. However, the thermal modeling of a large continuous array (with multiple modules of the same type and size and at the same air gap) had yet to be done at ASU prior to this project. In addition to the air gap effect analysis, the industry is exploring different ways of extracting the heat from PV modules including hybrid photovoltaic-thermal systems (PV/T). The goal of this project was to develop a thermal model for a small residential BAPV array consisting of 12 identical polycrystalline silicon modules at an air gap of 2.5 inches from the rooftop. The thermal model coefficients are empirically derived from a simulated field test setup at ASU and are presented in this thesis. Additionally, this project investigates the effects of cooling the array with a 40-Watt exhaust fan. The fan had negligible effect on power output or efficiency for this 2.5-inch air gap array, but provided slightly lower temperatures and better temperature uniformity across the array.