The sun's rays are warm, but they can be used to help keep people cool. Thanks to advances in modern design and technology, sunlight is ideal for cooling folks down with solar energy. From photovoltaic carports to solar powered air conditioning, solar power is now better than ever at keeping people comfortable regardless of the season.
Shady Solar-Powered Carports
One of the best ways to use open space while keeping vehicles and people cool is through a solar powered carport. The structures work as a canopy that goes over a parking lot or other open space. The top of the structure is covered with solar modules, and the panels provide shade to the cars and people using the space below. In this way, a parking lot can maintain its original purpose while also being more useful thanks to solar energy.
To help keep its main parking lot cool, Tucson International Airport is considering putting in a solar power canopy over its parking facilities. The proposed 2.5-megawatt array, which will be paid for in part thanks to federal level tax breaks and Arizona solar rebates, will be installed on top of a 20-foot-tall structure over head of the facility's main parking lots, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
The system, which is expected to cost about $18 million in total, is specifically designed to keep the space below as cool as possible, in addition to generating green electricity to supply about 33 percent of the airport's energy needs. Some of the carport's cooling features include a microclimate from plants planted on walls and a lattice-like structure specifically designed to repel heat, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
"Tucson is a solar city," Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said in a statement released by the Airport Authority, according to the news source. "It's entirely appropriate that visitors flying into Tucson see evidence of our commitment to solar even before they get off the plane."
Solar Powered Air Conditioning
On a warm day, the sun's rays will only make a room feel warmer, but now the sun can make a room feel colder as well. Air conditioning units powered with photovoltaic energy are an ideal appliance for just about any building. After all, TreeHugger has reported that about 5 percent of U.S. residential electricity usage is taken up by air conditioning.
One of the most efficient PV-powered air conditioning units is manufactured by NuDyma and Kingtec. The appliance gets its electricity directly from a solar panel and it features a battery to extend the unit's cooling capacity for even non-sunny days. The air conditioning is about as efficient at making a cool room as would be a typical window unit, according to TreeHugger.
The company has "built a neat little package that runs on a lot less than my 'big honking bank of photovoltaics' [idea]; combined with a small home designed around its output (not a difficult thing to do) and you've got that holy grail I've been looking for: the effective and affordable solar powered air conditioner," Lloyd Alter wrote in the September 15 TreeHugger article.
PV Panels Made Cooler and More Efficient
To help photovoltaic modules stay cooler and generate more electricity, Honeywell has developed a new film designed to go onto black solar panels. PowerShield Cool Black makes black panels more efficient by reducing the amount of stress that heat causes on a power system's internal wiring, thus allowing for more of the sun's rays to be converted to electricity. The film is ideal for homes where the panels are made to blend seamlessly into a black rooftop.
"Heat reduction is a key factor in improving solar panel efficiency, and black panels are especially susceptible to increased temperatures," Jerry Buchanan, global business manager for Honeywell's photovoltaic (PV) backing systems business, said in a release. "Honeywell's innovative new product, PowerShield Cool Black, can help keep black panels cool while making them more efficient, durable and able to blend in with their surroundings."