Performance of Solar Hot Water Collectors for Electricity Production and Climate Control

EPA Grant Number: SU833167
Title: Performance of Solar Hot Water Collectors for Electricity Production and Climate Control
Investigators: Warhaft, Zellman , Gunther, Jeffrey Michael , Chessen, Andrew Richard , Menezes, Bernardo , Bosworth, David , Skoczen, Steven
Current Investigators: Warhaft, Zellman , Anderson, Carly , Bosworth, David , Ulinski, Matt , Schur, Rebecca , Skoczen, Steven
Institution: Cornell University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2006 through September 29, 2007
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


We will systematically evaluate commercially available solar thermal collectors and thermal storage systems for use in residential scale co-generative heat and electrical power systems. Currently, reliable data is unavailable over the range of conditions and installations these in which solar thermal collection and storage systems are typically used. In addition, these systems are rarely used with kilowatt sized heat engine generators, applicable to residential co-generative power plants. Gathering quantitative, rigorous data is crucial to establishing the criteria that we can use to compare solar thermal systems to traditional systems for residential heating, climate control, and electrical power generation.

The opportunities for furthering sustainable development by developing co-generative systems are enormous. Most significantly, the cost of a system driven by evacuated tubes, thermal storage, and a heat engine could be several times lower than a photovoltaic and battery system. In addition to simple cost effectiveness, such a system would be less toxic in the long term, easier to mass-produce, and would take fewer resources to produce. This system should also provide for better low-light collection than photovoltaic panels, allowing for a wider range of use across the world. Finally, in contrast to the relative youth of photovoltaic systems, evacuated tubes, effective insulation, and small heat engines have been commercially available and refined for decades.

We will test five sets of evacuated tubes in identical conditions, varying solar insolation, sun angle, ambient temperature, working fluid, flow speed, and solar day length. Additionally, we will test four thermal storage systems, with eight to ten insulates to establish actual R-values and find sources of thermal leaks.

We expect to produce reliable data to be used in solar thermal installations. Additionally, research from this grant will be integrated into the Cornell entry for the 2007 Solar Decathlon competition. The Cornell University Solar Decathlon team is an interdisciplinary project team that will compete in the 2007 Solar Decathlon hosted by the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratories. It consists of 91 students from six of our undergraduate colleges, the business school and the graduate school. The team comprises eleven “sub-teams,” ranging from Heating, Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) to Communications, and it spans independent study classes in Engineering and Landscape Architecture, as well as a full six-credit design studio in Architecture.

Supplemental Keywords:

Life-cycle analysis, sustainable development, renewable, clean technologies, innovative technology, engineering, renewable energy, solar energy, solar thermal collection, solar thermal collectors, thermal storage, insulation, insulates, alternative energy, product life cycle, evacuated tubes,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Engineering, sustainable development, solar thermal electric panel, energy technology, solar energy, alternative energy source, energy storage, electricity production

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report