Solar Panels Cool Buildings


Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have discovered an added benefit to solar panels: In summer, they cool the buildings on which they are installed.

Using thermal imaging, the scientists found that solar photovoltaic panels act like giant sun shades and that building ceilings under the panels were 5 degrees F cooler than top-floor ceilings of buildings with exposed roofs.

Reporting in the journal Solar Energy, the researchers also found that tilting the solar panels allowed for the efficient passage of air underneath, further cooling the buildings.

In winter, the solar panels prevent some sunlight from warming buildings, but at night the panels trap heat and warm buildings, essentially offsetting any reduction of solar heating during the day.

Solar panels reduced the amount of heat reaching the roof by 38 percent, the study said.

Overall, the study said that the energy savings from the cooling effect of solar panels amounted to getting a 5 percent discount on the price of the panels.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

1 Comment

  1. Very cool!! No need for the utility company to be involved in this higher efficiency installation. No mention of the transmission losses are mentioned, but they are an added benefit. All the energy goes from the roof to the consumer.

    Efficiency losses, utility profit, overhead and advertising expenses are eliminated. The free energy form the sun will be paid for in a short time and the consumer can now put $500-$600 back into the economy every month (in lieu of an electric bill).

    Can’t wait for this to catch on as the American economy will quickly grow, providing jobs, tax base, local spending boosts and a significant growth in consumer confidence.