A unique solar technology that can be building-integrated, which harnesses both visible and infrared spectrums of solar radiation, utilizes direct and diffuse radiation to produce electricity and hot water, and delivers daylight, has been conceptualized. This technology is a three-in-one (named Tri-Sol), low/medium-concentration, building-integrated, skylight system for commercial buildings. However, this technology can be utilized for building facades and other building envelope components. A key component of the technology is linear Fresnel lenses. These lenses can be designed to be thin and light-weight. Sunlight, concentrated by the linear Fresnel lenses with a low-cost single axis tracker, focuses on a high-efficiency, thin Photo Voltaic (PV) strip that is in contact with a thermal absorber. Electricity produced by PV strips can be processed and distributed from an electric power management system. The thermal absorber houses a sealed heat pipe for cooling the PV strip and producing hot water. The water-cooled condenser section of the heat pipe is external to the skylight so that there is no issue of water leakage through the skylight. Hot water produced can be used for end-use, space heating, or absorption cooling. All diffuse light that cannot be concentrated by Fresnel lenses is delivered into the building interior space.
A pre-prototype of Tri-Sol technology was designed and built at University of New Haven (UNH). Solar Testing and Training Laboratory (STTL) at UNH houses solar thermal collector equipment with a capability to perform Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC) tests. The Tri-Sol module was mounted on the SRCC test equipment at UNH and was tested outdoors to identify any issues or design enhancements.