Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Solar panels keep buildings cool

Date:
July 19, 2011
Source:
University of California - San Diego
Summary:
Those solar panels on top of your roof aren't just providing clean power; they are cooling your house, or your workplace, too, according to a team of environmental engineering researchers.

Tilted solar panels (front), create a stronger cooling efffect than panels flush with the roof.
Credit: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

Those solar panels on top of your roof aren’t just providing clean power; they are cooling your house, or your workplace, too, according to a team of researchers led by Jan Kleissl, a professor of environmental engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

In a study in an upcoming issue of the journal Solar Energy, Kleissl and his team published what they believe are the first peer-reviewed measurements of the cooling benefits provided by solar photovoltaic panels. Using thermal imaging, researchers determined that during the day, a building’s ceiling was 5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler under solar panels than under an exposed roof. At night, the panels help hold heat in, reducing heating costs in the winter.

“Talk about positive side-effects,” said Kleissl.

As solar panels sprout on an increasing number of residential and commercial roofs, it becomes more important to consider their impact on buildings’ total energy costs, Kleissl said. His team determined that the amount saved on cooling the building amounted to getting a 5 percent discount on the solar panels’ price, over the panels’ lifetime. Or to put it another way, savings in cooling costs amounted to selling 5 percent more solar energy to the grid than the panels are actually producing— for the building researchers studied.

Data for the study was gathered over three days in April on the roof of the Powell Structural Systems Laboratory at the Jacobs School of Engineering with a thermal infrared camera. The building is equipped with tilted solar panels and solar panels that are flush with the roof. Some portions of the roof are not covered by panels.

The panels essentially act as roof shades, said Anthony Dominguez, the graduate student lead on the project. Rather than the sun beating down onto the roof, which causes heat to be pushed through the roof and inside the ceiling of the building, photovoltaic panels take the solar beating. Then much of the heat is removed by wind blowing between the panels and the roof. The benefits are greater if there is an open gap where air can circulate between the building and the solar panel, so tilted panels provide more cooling. Also, the more efficient the solar panels, the bigger the cooling effect, said Kleissl. For the building researchers analyzed, the panels reduced the amount of heat reaching the roof by about 38 percent.

Although the measurements took place over a limited period of time, Kleissl said he is confident his team developed a model that allows them to extrapolate their findings to predict cooling effects throughout the year.

For example, in winter, the panels would keep the sun from heating up the building. But at night, they would also keep in whatever heat accumulated inside. For an area like San Diego, the two effects essentially cancel each other out, Kleissl said.

The idea for the study came about when Kleissl, Dominguez and a group of undergraduate students were preparing for an upcoming conference. They decided the undergraduates should take pictures of Powell’s roof with a thermal infrared camera. The data confirmed the team’s suspicion that the solar panels were indeed cooling the roof, and the building’s ceiling as well.

“There are more efficient ways to passively cool buildings, such as reflective roof membranes,” said Kleissl. “But, if you are considering installing solar photovoltaic, depending on your roof thermal properties, you can expect a large reduction in the amount of energy you use to cool your residence or business.”

The study was funded by a NASA Graduate Student Research Program fellowship. Kleissl’s research is funded by the National Science Foundation, California Public Utilities Commission, the Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission. The authors thank the staff of the Powell Structural Lab, especially Andrew Gunthardt, for making the building available for the study.If additional funding became available, Kleissl said his team could develop a calculator that people could use to predict the cooling effect on their own roof and in their own climate-specific area. To further increase the accuracy of their models, researchers also could compare two climate-controlled, identical buildings in the same neighborhood, one with solar panels, the other without.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - San Diego. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Anthony Dominguez, Jan Kleissl, Jeffrey C. Luvall. Effects of solar photovoltaic panels on roof heat transfer. Solar Energy, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.solener.2011.06.010

Cite This Page:

University of California - San Diego. "Solar panels keep buildings cool." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110718151558.htm>.
University of California - San Diego. (2011, July 19). Solar panels keep buildings cool. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110718151558.htm
University of California - San Diego. "Solar panels keep buildings cool." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110718151558.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins