Sun shines on Waikato University research


Waikato University research has developed a way to incorporate solar energy and roofing iron, shifting away from the use of bolt-on solar panels.

WaikatoLink, the university’s commercial arm, has set up a company called Solenza to commercialise the new roofing technology. Solenza works in partnership with the Solar Engineering Research Group at the University of Waikato, which is led by senior engineering lecturer Dr Mike Duke.

The development involves a revolutionary new way to harness the power of the sun to generate electricity and heat water by integrating long run roofing iron with a solar energy transfer system.

The patented technology is a seamless system, and is a shift away from bolt-on solar energy panels. Instead it uses the surface area of the roof to convert solar energy from the solar cells directly into electricity for commercial, industrial and household use.

Dr Duke says the group developed the process of integrating solar photovoltaic technology into roofing iron to drive down payback time, reduce cost and produce greater efficiencies.

The photovoltaic system, which is made of silicon and other materials, responds to light and causes electrons to become excited and move through the silicon. This conversion of radiant energy from the sun into direct current electricity is known as the photovoltaic effect.

Trials have shown Solenza’s system to be extremely efficient — up to 70% of the solar energy is converted into useful energy.

The built-in thermal cooling system ensures more solar energy is harnessed to generate electricity. Water is also heated as part of this process, a significant benefit as heating water accounts for up to 40% of a household’s electricity bill.

Solenza expects to achieve further efficiency gains and increased energy yield through continued development of the integrated photovoltaic devices.

New Zealand has about 2000 hours of bright sunshine annually, so is well positioned to harness solar energy. In energy terms, New Zealand’s solar energy resource is about 4 kWh/sq m per day.

Solenza has already attracted inquiries from companies in the USA and India from parties interested in partnering to take the technology into those countries.


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