Green Roof Plants Help Solar Panels Chill

Despite being an abundant untapped resource for distributed renewable energy production, rooftops sometimes aren’t the best place to install photovoltaic (PV) panels. Heat has a negative impact on voltage, which affects power production on extremely hot days. But, by integrating a rooftop PV system with a green building technique designed to keep roofs cool and manage stormwater, Maryland-based Green Roof Technology may have found a solution to this problem.

Its new “Sun-Root solar-living roof system” is described by the company as the first fully integrated, non-penetrative solar and extensive green roof system in North America. Besides reportedly improving a building’s energy efficiency by keeping it cool, the Sun-Root, its developer states, combines the benefits of a vegetative roof with the power production of a solar roof.

SunRoot_New

image via Green Roof Technology

Essentially, it is like taking a ground-mounted PV system and putting it on a roof, while still maintaining the integrity of the green roof’s moisture seal and water management systems. Through evaporation, the system creates a cooler micro-climate around the PV panels, enabling them to operate more efficiently.

“Heat is the enemy of energy production,” said Jörg Breuning of Green Roof Technology in a statement. “Any time atmospheric temperatures on a roof begin to rise, PV elements lose their efficiency and can shut down if temperatures rise too high. We sought a way to counteract this negative phenomenon by combining solar modules with an extensive green roof.”

sun-root-2

image via Green Roof Technology

The sun-root system works by mounting the panels onto a drainage element stabilized by “root stiffeners”. This ensures that the PV system is attached to the roof without compromising its waterproof integrity. The green roof material (soil, plants, etc.) act as a counter-load to the wind lift on the panels.

Rainwater is channeled underneath the panels by a capillary fleece and the suction provided by a slight slope in the roof. This provides water to the plants, and cools the panels through evaporation. The water then drains off the roof in the surrounding drainage system.

Elements of the sun-root can be tailored to meet the needs of different sites. The installation’s specifications depend on site-specific factors like wind zone, building height, terrain category, distance to the edge of the roof, dry weight of the substrate and the size of the solar modules. The module racking structure is set at a default tilt of 30 degrees, but can be adjusted with the optional “root flex” retrofit kit.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.barthle Paul Barthle

    I still think that combining pv panels with solar/thermal panels would be the best way to ensure peak efficiency by extracting heat from the panels to be used for other processes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bill.snover.1 Bill Snover

      I agree. I seen a prototype awhile back on a inventers tv show that looked like a great idea. They were awaiting a patent,but I never heard anything else about it.

  • Greensulate

    Great to see new products coming out combining solar panels and green roofs. u00a0We installed a project featuring both of these last year. u00a0For pictures, check out http://www.greensulate.com

  • Anonymous

    Fascinating combination of technology and nature. It’s permaculture and then some!

  • http://www.ladders-online.com/ Ladders

    nnThere are quite a few companiesnhere in the UK that will install solar panels for free in return for 40% ornmore of your feedback returns. Sadly the government recently dropped the feednin rate so less and less companies are doing that which is a shame.nnn

    • Joerg Breuning

      Companies
      that install solar for free in return of the benefits are all over the world.
      The benefits for the building/ property owners in these cases are dramatically diminishing or even vanishing.If you have no cash talk to your house bank – you actually make money at the end.

  • Srifer

    Very clever, innovative design and system. But must be possible to develop much further.
    FS 

  • http://www.facebook.com/ferdinand.swart.7 Ferdinand Swart

    Here in the Tropics heat is even more an issue; more rain and panels should be horizontal.