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Solar Shades

Environmental engineering professor Jan Kleissl and MAE graduate student Anthony Dominguez
Environmental engineering professor Jan Kleissl and MAE graduate student Anthony Dominguez

While solar panels are used for electricity generation and water heating applications, their shading and cooling effect on buildings has been ignored. Until now. Jacobs School environmental engineering professor Jan Kleissl and a group of his mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) students say solar panels are not only a source of "green" power but they also impact the heat balance of roofs due to absorption of solar radiation and shading of the roof surface.

Using a thermal camera, wireless sensors and computer modeling, the group of engineers found that the ceiling of a building is cooler below the actual solar panels on the roof. The experiment - the first comprehensive one of its kind - was conducted on the Jacobs School's Powell Labs north building on the UC San Diego campus. Kleissl's goal is to create an online calculator for homeowners and business owners to use to determine how much cooling and energy savings they will actually have by installing and using solar panels. He says this new-found discovery could give the solar industry a big boost.

"We want to demonstrate the additional energy conservation potential of solar panels that may provide an incentive for their future use," Kleissl says.

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