The growing demand for renewable energy sources, in particular for solar technologies, requires more detailed studies to increase power and efficiency. Among them, thermoelectric energy conversion is a well-known technology used for decades including solar thermal generators (STEG), radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG), automotive thermoelectric generators (ATG) and thermoelectric generators (TEG). This chapter aims to demonstrate that the thermoelectric effect (Seebeck effect) can be used to harness the thermal energy retained in photovoltaic panels to increase their overall efficiency with its direct conversion into electrical energy and vice versa. It is also observed that solar radiation can be converted directly into electric energy, as in photovoltaic modules, or yet can be converted directly into electricity, as in thermoelectric modules. It is emphasised that although the energy conversion by thermoelectric effect still has low electrical efficiency, this source is characterised by a high degree of reliability, low maintenance, appreciable durability and absence of moving parts, and it allows generating electric energy through recovery of the thermal energy from several industrial processes. At the end of this chapter is presented a case study related to the thermal energy absorbed by a polycrystalline photovoltaic module to illustrate their increased efficiency and power in thermoelectric-photovoltaic cogeneration.
Part of the book: Renewable Energy