Modeling and optimization of solar thermoelectric generators for terrestrial applications

Daniel Kraemer, Kenneth McEnaney, Matteo Chiesa, Gang Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


In this paper we introduce a model and an optimization methodology for terrestrial solar thermoelectric generators (STEGs). We describe, discuss, and justify the necessary constraints on the STEG geometry that make the STEG optimization independent of individual dimensions. A simplified model shows that the thermoelectric elements in STEGs can be scaled in size without affecting the overall performance of the device, even when the properties of the thermoelectric material and the solar absorber are temperature-dependent. Consequently, the amount of thermoelectric material can be minimized to be only a negligible fraction of the total system cost. As an example, a Bi 2Te 3-based STEG is optimized for rooftop power generation. Peak efficiency is predicted to be 5% at the standard spectrum AM1.5G, with the thermoelectric material cost below 0.05$/W p. Integrating STEGs into solar hot water systems for cogeneration adds electricity at minimal extra cost. In such cogeneration systems the electric current can be adjusted throughout the day to favor either electricity or hot water production.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)1338-1350
Number of pages13
JournalSolar Energy
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Design optimization
  • Flat-panel
  • Large thermal concentration
  • Solar power conversion
  • Solar thermoelectric cogeneration
  • Terrestrial solar thermoelectric generator


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