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Success Story

Design, sustainability, and practicality- QNRF-funded project combines all three to produce a viable solution to utilize solar energy

Qatar not only has a wealth of natural oil and gas but also receives high and relatively consistent incident solar radiation (insolation) throughout the year making solar photovoltaic (PV) systems a viable clean energy source to power the country. The Government of Qatar has set a target to generate 20% of the electricity from solar power by 2030. Therefore, efforts need to be made to harness the energy from the sun through PV for domestic electricity production to reduce dependability on hydrocarbons, reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, and help Qatar emerge as a regional leader in sustainable energy development.

Serious efforts are already underway to utilize more solar energy. An example of this is the large-scale modern residential buildings in Qatar in areas including Lusail city, Musheirib, Barwa city, Mowater city, the Pearl, as well as economic zones which follow the Qatar-developed Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) and the US-based Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for sustainability design and ranking. However, complying with these standards often comes at a cost of compromising the aesthetic appearance and design of such buildings, especially due to the installation of solar energy systems. Therefore, architects and end-users find traditional flat-panel (planar) solar photovoltaic modules, unappealing (Figure 1 - Detail A) and often chose to forego their installation.

However, thanks to researchers from Texas A&M University at Qatar, architects and designers need not worry any longer, as Dr. Robert Balog and Dr. Morcos Metry have developed an ingenious solution to help incorporate sustainable designs without compromising on the design elements of the building.

The researchers have developed a specially-designed solar roof tile for residential buildings in Qatar by integrating the solar PV electricity generation directly onto the familiar terracotta roof tile (Figure 1 - Detail B). This will enable architects and designers to create buildings to achieve high LEED and GSAS ranking standards with unobtrusive building-integrated PV panels.

A perfect blend of fit, form, and function, the project titled, “Solar Roof Tile: Transforming Residential Photovoltaic Systems in Qatar” (PDRA5-0422-19004) has been made possible through Qatar National Research Fund’s Postdoctoral Research Award (PDRA).

This solar tile will be wired with an embedded energy conversion circuitry, with the exact shape and material of the standard tile but coated with a photovoltaic layer. Moreover, the researchers also plan to use differential power processing (DPP) converters to increase the overall system efficiency due to their utility in harnessing increased amounts of energy in planar PV systems.

Apart from an innovative and tangible outcome with applications that extend beyond Qatar, these transformative PV roof tiles showcase the overall contribution of such QNRF funded projects which are relevant and relatable to the society of Qatar. Not only has this research advanced knowledge and understanding in power electronics topologies, control theory, and device fabrication, but has helped further the development of local human capital. This project holds the potential to establish Qatar as a technology leader by substantially advancing the application and science of photovoltaic energy conversion, and will help in the development and innovation of commercially feasible concepts, hardware, and control techniques to support PV projects in Qatar and the world.

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