Getting the Best out of Solar Technologies: a Q&A on the Latest Project…

A ‘Q&A’ with Chris Weirman on the latest solar PV and solar thermal project at SPECIFIC.

Please introduce yourself and your role at SPECIFIC:

My name’s Chris Weirman, and I’m a senior TTF at SPECIFIC, the main part of my role is to progress technology from the lab and take it to industry. We do this by demonstration and showing people how emerging tech works – which helps people to understand the technology in situ and de-risks mass adoption. By installing ‘kit’ in situ, we can collect data, to then evaluate it and predict or improve the technology further so that it can be manufactured at scale.

 Can you give a brief overview of the project?

This project is all about gathering data to see how we can best use the building envelope to heat / power a building. It involves 5 different types of tech; 2 x solar electric / 3 x solar thermal; that are going to be installed on a huge rig outside the SHED (solar heat energy demonstrator). Each technology will be mounted in two orientations on the façade to simulate a wall and roof installation, which equals 10 arrays in total. The moving rigs can be moved to any roof pitch, but we are initially keeping perpendicular to the sun to investigate any generation improvement.

The PV systems will be connected to a battery system so we can look at the combination effect of different PV technologies with one battery technology. We’ll also be simulating different load profiles; for typical and non-typical house profiles (i.e. the home of a 9am-5pm worker vs. shift worker); and ‘playing around with the energy’ to see how much residual energy we can divert towards long term, viable thermochemical heat storage.  

The technology included is: 1. Polycrystalline PV silicon from Panasonic | 2. CIGS PV from Solibro | 3. thermodynamic solar thermal system from Hyrax Solar | 4. Varisol DF400 solar thermal evacuated tubes from Kingspan | 5. TS400 evacuated flat plate collectors from Thermosolar

Why did you want to do this project?

At SPECIFIC, we develop the technology to enable buildings to generate, store and release their own solar energy (Active Buildings). So, for this project, we wanted to look into commercially available and emerging technologies that also activate the building fabric to maximise energy generation. The data that these technologies will provide will give us an understand of a performance in a natural environment, for example; cloud cover, insolation, precipitation; which will in turn enable us to advise / choose the right tech for buildings of the future.

Are there any other project dealing with similar issues?

Anyone with PV on their roof can look at their data, but we’re working on our own live data because it directly affects the downstream processes that are unique to our technology developments, for example, sensible and thermochemical heat storage which is able to time-shift energy demand by storing heat from summer to winter or from day to night.

Who are we working with to deliver it?

We’re proud to have worked seamlessly with local contractors on this project. Greenbuild Consult Ltd., along with Vale Consultancy, have enabled the project to happen through their structural engineering expertise. Greenwise Construction, together with JES Group Ltd, have built the enormous platforms for the technology to sit on, so again, it couldn’t have happened without them. We’re also contracting Solar Plants and Purcey and Ball to ‘connect up’ the technology after the platforms have been elevated. Team effort!

When are we hoping to be able to share some insights?

We’ll have data within 6-8 weeks which we’ll be sharing on social media – so keep posted via our twitter page!

Picture: Chris Weirman, Mark Watkins and Leighton Medway from SPECIFIC at the SHED.
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