Our research

Energy utilisation in Malta is characterised by a total dependence on imported fossil fuels, low efficiency utilisation and lack of diffusion of alternative sources. The Institute for Sustainable Energy monitors development in sectors such as demography, economy and industry. Analysis of trends of energy use in all sectors provide basis for a strategy for the application of energy conservation and renewable energies.
The priority project in this sector is the design of low-cost, locally manufactured, solar water heaters. The primary aim is to select low-cost materials and fabrication methods. The Institute is also setting up a test bed for certification purposes for solar water heaters on the markets.
The design of solar energy systems requires the availability of detailed and continuous weather data. To further this aim, the Institute is undertaking climatic monitoring of a number of solar radiation parameters, namely global solar radiation on a horizontal and inclined plane and diffuse radiation on a horizontal surface. Temperature, rainfall, humidity and wind characteristics are also being monitored.

A vertical PV grid-connected solar system has been installed in January 2006. Performance analysis under local weather conditions is being conducted.  Results of this research project will be relevant to answer frequently asked questions on PV in buildings' facades.  In general, high rise buildings make use of the rooftop for a number of services , leaving little or no space for installing a solar photovoltaic system.

At the same time, modern facades that use glass may now opt to use solar photovoltaic modules, thus reducing the electricity bill and enhancing the aesthetics of the building. As electricity prices continue to soar, the economic viability of PV systems becomes more attractive. Moreover, if PV systems are introduced at the design stage of the building, it would cost less and its price would be incorporated in the overall capital, thus avoiding the traditional question of payback period.

The recent combined price reduction of photovoltaic modules and tracking systems, coupled with the increase in efficiency and reliability of these units, prompted the Institute to carry out research in this field. A solar tracking system has the potential of offsetting the high initial cost dilemma, by following the sun’s path throughout the day. This implies that for a certain amount of power required, less solar modules will be needed, which would occupy less area, produce more power at lower costs.

A 360 Wp PV solar tracking system has been connected to the public electricity grid. It consists of 6 Solarex modules connected to a 'Sunny Boy' inverter, which converts the direct current produced by the modules into alternating current conforming to the grid conditions.

The heating and cooling of buildings in Malta is increased rapidly with the improved standard of living. Building methods have so far been ignoring even the most basic measures to reduce the need for heating and cooling. Approximately 30% of the energy used in Malta is related to buildings and significant increases are expected in the near future.
This project aims to identify a series of measures that lower the heating and cooling capacity required in buildings in the order of cost intensiveness. Such measures include insulation, passive solar and ventilation.

This research project was initiated in mid-1995 to establish Malta's first specific wind monitoring programme. Wind characteristics are monitored at different heights above ground level and this fieldwork is helping compile wind-specific databases for different and new locations around the Maltese archipelago.

Computer models are also being utilised to extrapolate long-term wind data to different sites on the islands. A deeper and better understanding of local wind characteristics and of the prospects for electricity generation using wind energy conversion systems are two of the primary objectives of this ongoing research project.