Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Photovoltaic panel cooling by atmospheric water sorption–evaporation cycle

Abstract

More than 600 GW of photovoltaic panels are currently installed worldwide, with the predicted total capacity increasing very rapidly every year. One essential issue in photovoltaic conversion is the massive heat generation of photovoltaic panels under sunlight, which represents 75–96% of the total absorbed solar energy and thus greatly increases the temperature and decreases the energy efficiency and lifetime of photovoltaic panels. In this report we demonstrate a new and versatile photovoltaic panel cooling strategy that employs a sorption-based atmospheric water harvester as an effective cooling component. The atmospheric water harvester photovoltaic cooling system provides an average cooling power of 295 W m2 and lowers the temperature of a photovoltaic panel by at least 10 °C under 1.0 kW m2 solar irradiation in laboratory conditions. It delivered a 13–19% increase in electricity generation in a commercial photovoltaic panel in outdoor field tests conducted in the winter and summer in Saudi Arabia. The atmospheric water harvester based photovoltaic panel cooling strategy has little geographical constraint in terms of its application and has the potential to improve the electricity production of existing and future photovoltaic plants, which can be directly translated into less CO2 emission or less land occupation by photovoltaic panels. As solar power is taking centre stage in the global fight against climate change, atmospheric water harvester based cooling represents an important step toward sustainability.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Schematic of the hydrogel synthesis process and the two operation modes.
Fig. 2: Characterization of the PAM-CNT-CaCl2 hydrogel.
Fig. 3: Cooling performance of the PAM-CNT-CaCl2 hydrogel cooling layer.
Fig. 4: Parallel comparison of PV panel characteristics with and without the cooling layer attached.
Fig. 5: Cooling performance of the PAM-CNT-CaCl2 hydrogel under simulated sunlight irradiation.
Fig. 6: Cooling performance of the PAM-CNT-CaCl2 hydrogel under water collection mode.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

References

  1. 1.

    Parida, B., Iniyan, S. & Goic, R. A review of solar photovoltaic technologies. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 15, 1625–1636 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Yoshikawa, K. et al. Silicon heterojunction solar cell with interdigitated back contacts for a photoconversion efficiency over 26%. Nat. Energy 2, 17032 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Jäger-Waldau, A. PV Status Report 2019 (Publications Office, European Union, 2019).

  4. 4.

    Yang, D. & Yin, H. Energy conversion efficiency of a novel hybrid solar system for photovoltaic, thermoelectric, and heat utilization. IEEE Trans. Energy Conver. 26, 662–670 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    van Helden, W. G. J., van Zolingen, R. J. C. & Zondag, H. A. PV thermal systems: PV panels supplying renewable electricity and heat. Prog. Photovolt. Res. Appl. 12, 415–426 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Makki, A., Omer, S. & Sabir, H. Advancements in hybrid photovoltaic systems for enhanced solar cells performance. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 41, 658–684 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Natarajan, S. K., Mallick, T. K., Katz, M. & Weingaertner, S. Numerical investigations of solar cell temperature for photovoltaic concentrator system with and without passive cooling arrangements. Int. J. Therm. Sci. 50, 2514–2521 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Menke, S. M., Ran, N. A., Bazan, G. C. & Friend, R. H. Understanding energy loss in organic solar cells: toward a new efficiency regime. Joule 2, 25–35 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Skoplaki, E. & Palyvos, J. A. On the temperature dependence of photovoltaic module electrical performance: a review of efficiency/power correlations. Sol. Energy 83, 614–624 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Bredemeier, D., Walter, D., Herlufsen, S. & Schmidt, J. Lifetime degradation and regeneration in multicrystalline silicon under illumination at elevated temperature. AIP Adv. 6, 035119 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Jordan, D. C. & Kurtz, S. R. Photovoltaic degradation rates—an analytical review. Prog. Photovolt. Res. Appl. 21, 12–29 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Bahaidarah, H. M. S., Baloch, A. A. B. & Gandhidasan, P. Uniform cooling of photovoltaic panels: a review. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 57, 1520–1544 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Siecker, J., Kusakana, K. & Numbi, B. P. A review of solar photovoltaic systems cooling technologies. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 79, 192–203 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Shukla, A., Kant, K., Sharma, A. & Biwole, P. H. Cooling methodologies of photovoltaic module for enhancing electrical efficiency: a review. Sol. Energy Mater. Sol. Cells 160, 275–286 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Teo, H. G., Lee, P. S. & Hawlader, M. N. A. An active cooling system for photovoltaic modules. Appl. Energy 90, 309–315 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Nižetić, S., Čoko, D., Yadav, A. & Grubišić-Čabo, F. Water spray cooling technique applied on a photovoltaic panel: the performance response. Energy Convers. Manag. 108, 287–296 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Odeh, S. & Behnia, M. Improving photovoltaic module efficiency using water cooling. Heat Transf. Eng. 30, 499–505 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Nižetić, S., Giama, E. & Papadopoulos, A. M. Comprehensive analysis and general economic-environmental evaluation of cooling techniques for photovoltaic panels, part II: active cooling techniques. Energy Convers. Manag. 155, 301–323 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Bahaidarah, H., Subhan, A., Gandhidasan, P. & Rehman, S. Performance evaluation of a PV (photovoltaic) module by back surface water cooling for hot climatic conditions. Energy 59, 445–453 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Stropnik, R. & Stritih, U. Increasing the efficiency of PV panel with the use of PCM. Renew. Energy 97, 671–679 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Chandel, S. S. & Agarwal, T. Review of cooling techniques using phase change materials for enhancing efficiency of photovoltaic power systems. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 73, 1342–1351 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Raman, A. P., Anoma, M. A., Zhu, L., Rephaeli, E. & Fan, S. Passive radiative cooling below ambient air temperature under direct sunlight. Nature 515, 540–544 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Zhu, L., Raman, A., Wang, K. X., Anoma, M. A. & Fan, S. Radiative cooling of solar cells. Optica 1, 32–38 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Popovici, C. G., Hudişteanu, S. V., Mateescu, T. D. & Cherecheş, N.-C. Efficiency improvement of photovoltaic panels by using air cooled heat sinks. Energy Procedia 85, 425–432 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Cuce, E., Bali, T. & Sekucoglu, S. A. Effects of passive cooling on performance of silicon photovoltaic cells. Int. J. Low-Carbon Technol. 6, 299–308 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Nižetić, S., Papadopoulos, A. M. & Giama, E. Comprehensive analysis and general economic-environmental evaluation of cooling techniques for photovoltaic panels, part I: passive cooling techniques. Energy Convers. Manag. 149, 334–354 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Kim, H. et al. Water harvesting from air with metal-organic frameworks powered by natural sunlight. Science 356, 430–434 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Kim, H. et al. Adsorption-based atmospheric water harvesting device for arid climates. Nat. Commun. 9, 1191 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Li, R. et al. Hybrid hydrogel with high water vapor harvesting capacity for deployable solar-driven atmospheric water generaRaman, A. P., Anoma, M. A., Zhu, L., Rephaeli, E. & Fan, S. Passive radiative cooling below ambient air temperature under direct sunlight. Nature 515,540–544 (2014tor. Environ. Sci. Technol. 52, 11367–11377 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Li, R., Shi, Y., Shi, L., Alsaedi, M. & Wang, P. Harvesting water from air: using anhydrous salt with sunlight. Environ. Sci. Technol. 52, 5398–5406 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Chan, H.-Y., Riffat, S. B. & Zhu, J. Review of passive solar heating and cooling technologies. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 14, 781–789 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Mizuno, K. et al. A black body absorber from vertically aligned single-walled carbon nanotubes. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 6044–6047 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Zeyghami, M., Goswami, D. Y. & Stefanakos, E. A review of clear sky radiative cooling developments and applications in renewable power systems and passive building cooling. Sol. Energy Mater Sol. Cells 178, 115–128 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Kandilli, C. & Ulgen, K. Solar illumination and estimating daylight availability of global solar irradiance. Energy Sources A 30, 1127–1140 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Zell, E. et al. Assessment of solar radiation resources in Saudi Arabia. Sol. Energy 119, 422–438 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    UV Index: Diurnal Variability (NOAA / National Weather Service, Climate Prediction Center, 2020); https://go.nature.com/2yKKbby

  37. 37.

    Adinoyi, M. J. & Said, S. A. M. Effect of dust accumulation on the power outputs of solar photovoltaic modules. Renew. Energy 60, 633–636 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Mekonnen, M. M. & Hoekstra, A. Y. Four billion people facing severe water scarcity. Sci. Adv. 2, e1500323 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Montgomery, M. A. & Elimelech, M. Water and sanitation in developing countries: including health in the equation. Environ. Sci. Technol. 41, 17–24 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Schiermeier, Q. Water risk as world warms. Nature 505, 10–11 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Atlas of the Biosphere (Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2020); https://go.nature.com/2VHwe7g

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Center Competitive Fund (CCF), awarded to the Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

P.W. supervised the project; R.L., Y.S. and P.W. conceived the idea and designed the experiments; R.L. and M.W. conducted the materials synthesis, characterization and performance investigation; S.H. produced the graphics; R.L. and P.W. co-wrote the paper. All the authors discussed and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peng Wang.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

P.W., R.L. and Y.S. have a patent application related to the work presented in this paper (U.S. Application No. 62/767,646).

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–18, Notes 1–3 and Tables 1–3.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Li, R., Shi, Y., Wu, M. et al. Photovoltaic panel cooling by atmospheric water sorption–evaporation cycle. Nat Sustain 3, 636–643 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0535-4

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing