With the predicted results of climate change looming, humanity must do all it can to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Maintaining a habitable environment along with the high quality of living associated with developed nations requires investment in renewable energy. Because national governments often fail to make responsible decisions for their country's future, this burden falls to institutions like UMass Amherst. Although costly investments like solar panels substantially improve the sustainability of campus, some innovative improvements of existing solar energy infrastructure can go a long way. For example, when solar panels heat up they lose photovoltaic efficiency. We propose that UMass institute cooling systems on current and future solar panel structures. This may sound extravagant, but in this paper we outline a plan for a simple and affordable cooling system that can be constructed from supplies bought at a local hardware store.
The University spent approximately $1.5 million dollars on the new solar canopy atop the Robsham’s Visitor Center. This structure generates an estimated $40,000 worth of electricity each year, with a 38 year return on investment. We expect a cooling system for each canopy to cost around $500 and to improve power output by more than 10 percent. This means that by the most conservative estimate, a $500 investment will generate an additional $4,000 worth of electricity, reducing the return on investment time by 4 years. Compared with the initial solar canopy investment, this magnitude of electricity generation would have cost $150,000. By comparison, $500 is peanuts. Read on to see how a little ingenuity can go a long way to save money and the environment.
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