The Solar Thermal Research Laboratory (STRL) at the University of Waterloo was started by Professor K.G.T. (Terry) Hollands (ret.) in the 1970s. Between then and his retirement in 2000, Professor Hollands was involved with fundamental research and development in all aspects of solar-thermal energy systems including photovoltaics, passive solar and windows, solar hot water and air heating, thermal storage, building energy efficiency, building integration of solar thermal systems, and solar-thermal applications in third world environments.
For its efforts, the Solar Thermal Engineering Centre, of which the STRL was a part, was awarded 'Christopher A. Weeks' achievement through action award' in 1989 from the International Solar Energy Society.
Since 2002, the STRL has been under the administration of Professor Mike Collins, who has continued working towards the original goals of the laboratory. Current research initiatives are in the areas of windows research, heat pump assisted solar thermal systems, drain water heat recovery, and solar optical property measurement techniques. In the past, the lab has also investigated PV/Solar Thermal hybrid systems, and performed fundamental numerical and experimental studies of solar and building related heat transfer processes.
The laboratory currently consists of general lab space (ERC3009), a surface optics lab (ERC3004), and a rooftop test platform (roof of ERC).
The STRL and the Advanced Glazing System Laboratory (AGSL) collaborate extensively in the area of windows research. Most recently, significant advances have been made toward the development of window models for building energy simulation that allow the effects of shading devices to be included. More information about this work can be found in the Advanced Glazing System Laboratory (AGSL) website.
Heat pump assisted solar systems
It is well understood that a typical solar domestic hot water system can greatly reduce a building’s reliance on electrical consumption. The system may be further improved by including a heat pump as part of the design. In theory, a heat pump would result in colder fluid temperatures entering the collector thereby resulting in higher collector efficiencies and longer operation periods.
STRL facilities include a test platform for investigating heat pump assisted solar thermal systems. The test platform can handle multiple system configurations, weather profiles, water usage patterns, and control strategies.
Work is ongoing to develop and evaluate new concepts.
Drain water heat recovery
One way to improve the energy efficiency of buildings is through the use of a falling film Drain water heat recovery (DWHR) system. DWHR systems are heat exchangers that transfer heat from warm drain water to cold incoming colder mains water. DWHR systems have proven to be a cost effective and reliable class of heat exchanger for reducing primary energy consumption in residential and commercial buildings, and in industrial buildings and processes.
STRL facilities include a test platform for investigating DWHR systems. The test platform is currently being used to measure system performance, and to formulate models for building simulation.
Solar/optical properties measurements
The STRL currently operates a first class facility for the evaluation and study of solar/optical and thermal radiative properties of materials. Equipment currently operated by the lab include a Ultra-violet/visibile light/near-infrared (UV/VIS/NIR) spectrophotometer with sampling attachments, a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer, Gier Dunkle solar (MS-251) and infrared (DB-100) reflectometers, and a broad area illumination integrating sphere. These devices facilitate the spectral measurement of specular and diffuse directional properties, and emissivity of materials, including the analysis of large, thick, and non-homogeneous samples.
The materials characterization capability of the STRL is of great practical interest. In addition to supporting numerous graduate projects, the facility is frequently subcontracted to do measurements for companies from around the world, and in particular, to perform solar reflective index (SRI) measurements required for leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) accreditation of green buildings.