Plans are beginning to unfold for an experiment on the roof of Science Building 2, which is on track to start in June. The experiment will occur on the third floor of the building, coupling two forms of sustainable technology that have not yet been researched together.
Plans are beginning to unfold for an experiment on the roof of Science Building 2, which is on track to start in June.
The experiment will occur on the third floor of the building, coupling two forms of sustainable technology that have not yet been researched together.
Photovoltaic panels, or solar panels, are being combined with the plant-covered “eco-roof” concept in an effort to understand how the two processes interact.
“We’re trying to collect as much information as possible, to better understand this,” said David Santen, the director of communications for the Office of Sustainability Initiatives.
The project strives to study the possibility of combining solar panels and green roofs, which have normally been seen as incompatible with one another. And due to this, no concerted study like this has been attempted.
Under the stewardship of chemistry professor Carl Wamser, along with professors David Sailor and Todd Rosenstiel, solar panels will be installed over plants.
The hope is that the solar panels will provide necessary shade for the plants, while the plants below would help cool the solar panels, keeping them efficient, Santen explained.
Solar panels work better when their temperature is a little cooler, allowing them to capture more sunlight. Prairie grasses, and other heat-resistant plants, are normally used on eco-roofs, but their ability to capture carbon is limited, he said.
Santen said that the group expects that more carbon-capturing plants can be used on the roof once the solar panels are installed.
This project, as well as other sustainability initiative experiments are planned to begin this summer and to span over three years.
The team decided to use widely available products so that other businesses and organizations can use the Portland State research as a model for reducing carbon emissions at a low cost.
“We want to use materials that are readily available to the public so that other groups like businesses will be able to use this information,” Santen said.
They also decided to work with SolarWorld, the local solar panel manufacturing company with a facility in Hillsboro, Ore., who donated the panels.
Portland General Electric and the City of Portland have both supported the project, while the National Science Foundation collaborated with other sources to fund the research, Santen said.