Heat water and generate electricity using Naked Energy's Virtu solar panels

Heat water and generate electricity using Naked Energy's Virtu solar panels

If you're thinking about investing in solar products to reduce your energy bills, it could be worth holding on until Virtu® panels hit the market

By Abby Trow
Virtu panels could be the future

Solar technology and energy conservation start-up Naked Energy describes Virtu® as being 'game-changing' hybrid solar panels that generate both heat and electricity. The products should be available in 2017 and the company was . Pictured above Christophe Williams and Richard Boyce hold a Virtu tube. They're two of the three founders of the Crawley-based company, which was chosen as 'One To Watch' in the Global Cleantech 100 awards in October. Naked Energy plans to manufacture in the UK.

Many of us are somewhat unclear as to what solar panels on our roofs give us. A fair few of us - er...probably those of us who dropped the sciences at secondary school...think we'd get electricity and hot water from them. Which is not, of course, the case. 

Photovoltaic panels generate electricity, while if we want hot water that is heated directly by solar energy, we need a separate system of solar thermal panels. And generally the roofs on our houses don't have space for both.
So there is, naturally, much excitement in the world of energy conservation around Virtu® panels which use a new hybrid technology that generates electricity and thermal energy to heat water.
A Virtu panel that generates both electricity and thermal energy to heat water
Virtu panels on a tiles roof

Keep it cool

You may not know this, but standard photovoltaic panels work at optimal efficiency up to 25 degrees C, so they need to be kept cool.

The Naked Energy team started by putting PV cells in contact with an innovative heat transfer device they developed, and found they could regulate effectively temperature around the cells.
They went on to develop the vacuum sealed Virtu panels which work by isothermally cooling PV cells to keep them cool, and this ensures a slightly higher than normal output of electricity.
The solar thermal technology with low thermal losses inherent in the vacuum tube technology produces abundant hot water / heat regardless of being installed in hot or cold climates.

The annual yield, however, depends on the application (domestic hot water, pool heating, space heating), local climatic conditions and number of panels installed.

The patented technology has been developed over the past five years, products are in the final phase of development and they should be on sale within a year.
Make significant savings on energy bills
The team say the Virtu system could save users up to 50 per cent on their annual electricity bills and up to 25 per cent on heating - based on a 9.6 sm2 installation -  and qualifies for both government Feed-in-Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive
There would be some cost involved in fitting the system since because it uses both water and electricity, a plumber would need to be involved... and we all know the hourly rate of plumbers these days...
Christophe Williams, one of Naked Energy's founders, is confident Virtu will work for both the commercial and residential sectors:  'Ultimately economics will dictate how successfully we tackle climate change and I think we have a product that makes both financial and environmental sense.'