Companies invited to collaborate on solar panel efficiency project

10 December 2020

Businesses are being invited to collaborate with researchers at the University of Derby who are leading a project to boost energy efficiency in thousands of homes.

The team from the University’s School of the Built and Natural Environment has been looking at how thermal/photovoltaic, or solar, panels can work more effectively.

The researchers are examining how the construction of these systems could be adapted to make them more efficient and help us to harness more power from renewable sources.

Professor Stamatis Zoras, who is leading the research, believes the benefits for housing developers, homeowners and landlords, including local authorities, could include a significantly quicker return on their investment.

He said: “Solar panels are often seen as one of the most practical ways in which people can make their homes more energy efficient, saving them money and also helping to reduce CO2 emissions, which can contribute to climate change.

“What our researchers have looked at is whether we can increase the amount of energy the panels can generate by changing the way they are designed.

“For instance, optimising the flow of the nanofluids which are used in solar panel systems because of their high thermal conductivity, or installing a 3D unit which enables better tracking of sunlight throughout the day than conventional flat panels can realise increases in energy of up to 30 per cent.

“Boosting the system by installing a geo-thermal heat pump with a lifespan of 25 years, could see a complete return on that investment in a fraction of that time.”

Solar heating also works more efficiently if combined with better designed ‘passive components’, such as improved glazing and well-insulated walls, as well as thermal storage building elements with correct orientation and efficient ventilation. These are being investigated to assess their impact on human comfort, energy demand and carbon emissions.   

Professor Zoras and his team are now looking to develop their research further and are planning a collaborative approach involving academia and industry.

He explained: “Our research output so far has been taken from algorithms and simulation tools, but we now need to initiate the experimental stage.

“We are bidding for funding which will enable us to set up our experimental configurations, and to do this in collaboration, not only with other UK research institutions but the private sector too.

“The evidence we have already shows there are significant possibilities to create more efficient solar based heating systems and enjoy shorter pay back periods, which are hugely attractive benefits that will appeal to potential customers of those companies who take this opportunity to collaborate with us.”

To take part or to find out more, please email

For more information about the University of Derby’s Built Environment research, visit our website.


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