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Solar power can convert organic material into enough heat to keep homes warm

The energy unit offers a reliable, affordable alternative - while reducing carbon dioxide emissions.


Mature man holding miniature house in front of house with solar panels
(Altrendo Images via Shutterstock)

By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Solar power can convert wood, scraps and garbage into enough heating to keep a home warm during the coldest winter months, according to new research.

Adding organic matter - such as corn husks, nut shells, pulp plus food and animal waste - could also generate electricity surpluses to be sold back to the grid in the summer, say scientists.

Import costs have seen households bills in the UK rise by over 50 percent this year as millions struggle to make ends meet.

The energy unit offers a reliable, affordable alternative - while reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Co-author Professor Gaoyang Hou, of Northwest A&F University said: "We demonstrate how this hybrid system provides a cleaner, more energy-efficient heating solution than fossil fuel in single-family homes.

"The system would be convenient in rural communities, where farms have large amounts of biomass in the form of agricultural waste that can be combined with solar power to close the urban-rural electricity gap and help the environment in the process."

It is based on a computer simulation model described in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.

The technology combines photovoltaic-thermal (PV/T) panels which use sunlight to generate electricity and biomass power sources.

It was evaluated based on the heating needs of a single-story cottage from November to March in northwest China.

In winter, temperatures can dip below minus 20 degrees Celsius - minus four degrees Fahrenheit.

The panels generated 52 percent of the electrical energy and captured eight percent of the available thermal energy.

The biomass generated the remaining 40 percent of the electricity needed to heat the house.

Co-author Dr. Lei Xu, from the same lab, said: "For the entire heating season, solar power predominates the energy supply side, with the biomass energy generation kicking in when needed to make up the energy deficit."

The international team used a software program called TRNSYS (transient system simulation tool).

Their hybrid system included a PV/T collector, heat pump, storage tank with an immersed coiled-tube heat exchanger, flow diverters, back-up electric boiler and other components.

The researchers are now developing a solar-biomass model to meet demands of a small commercial building. If successful they plan to develop a prototype for testing.

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