• Rooftop Solar Forecasts A Bright Future

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    Solar panels provide more than just clean, renewable power, they can also help to keep your building cool.

    Americans have begun to battle over sunshine. In sun-scorched Arizona a regulatory skirmish has broken out over arrays of blue-black silicon panels on rooftops, threatening the local utilities that have ruled electricity generation for a century or more. With some of the best access to sunshine on the planet, Arizona boasts the second-most solar power in the U.S.—more than 1,000 megawatts and counting. The state hosts vast photovoltaic arrays in the desert as well as the nation's first commercial power plant with the technology to use sunshine at night—bystoring daytime heat in molten salts.

    In terms of infrastructure, such big solar fits as comfortably as a coal-fired power plant in the traditional electricity business model, which involves large plants transmitting electricity over a grid of conducting lines through transformers and into individual homes and businesses. The trouble, from an electric utility's perspective, is the tens of thousands of Arizona's total of three million or …

    There are many ways to passively cool a building, including shading, reflective roofs and wall materials, cooling towers, geothermal heating and cooling and reflective membranes. However, the discovery that tilted solar panels help keep roofs cooler on hot summer days is a hidden benefit of solar power. Facilities evaluating the costs and benefits of investing in solar energy should consider the potential for reducing cooling costs as part of their analysis.

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