Cogeneration – The New Solution

As oil prices climb inexorably higher our interest in alternative sources of energy grows in proportion. Solar energy looks like a good candidate to tap into as we can expect the sun to keep burning longer than Wall Street is burning through our savings.

For my fellow dinosaurs, you will recall that in the  ’70’s we had a self-sufficiency jag and homemade solar water heating panels were all the rage. Of course, only the purists relied totally on these for hot water. Most of us compromised and had showers in between the bright sunny spells with conventional water heating, but we meant well.

For several years now, the emphasis has shifted to photovoltaic cells. China seems to be taking that market to its bosom and solar cells are coming down in price. But even this is in danger of becoming ‘so last century.’

The word is now cogeneration. This means that we use the sun to produce both hot water and electricity simultaneously. (When we can see enough of it of course.) Conegra Solar is doing it for big companies and Naked Energy has started to do it for the 99% like you and me according to a report in Discovery News (1).

 Naked Energy’s system is an array of evacuated tubes with solar cells in them, which sit on your roof. Now solar cells become increasingly inefficient as their temperature increases, which of course they will do with the sun beating down on them all day. So Naked Energy has come up with the solution of pushing water through the tubes to keep the solar cells temperature down to the optimum.

This new hybrid is a win–win–win as the systems produce electricity and hot water, but also the performance is improved by the temperature control of the cells.

Naked Energy is based in Guildford in the South-East of England and if they can get it to work there, they have a great chance of it working in a large part of the energy hungry world. We can only wish them well.

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