A flat-plate solar collector is conceived where energy cascades through thermoelectric power modules generating direct-current electricity. The intent of this work was to choose a collector configuration and to perform a steady-state thermal performance assessment. A set of energy balance equations were written and solved numerically for the purpose of optimizing collector thermal and electrical performance. The collector design involves finned columns of thermoelectric modules imbedded in the absorber plate (hot junction) over a parallel array of vertical tubes. The thermoelectric power output is limited by the small hot-junction/cold-junction temperature difference which can be maintained under steady-state conditions. The electric power per unit tube pass area is found to have a maximum as a function of a geometric parameter, while electric power is maximized with respect to an electric resistance ratio. Although the electric power efficiency is small, results indicate that there is sufficient electric power production to drive a coolant circulator, suggesting the potential for a stand-alone system.

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