ConE Fellowship supports Green Roof and Photovoltaic Research

By: Christopher Neely
Publisher: Council on the Environment (ConE)
Published: March 4, 2013

When the competition for the Green Fund Fellowship was announced, it was advertised as a competition for a single prize: the $10k grant. Well, that was before the projects were submitted and before the Council was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the research proposals.

The quality was so high that the Council decided to dig into their personal pockets and provide a second $10k award.

Meet Scott Tjaden and David Daily; your Council on the Environment grant winners.

Tjaden, an ecological design student, and Daily, a systems engineering student paired together to propose their research project: Improving Efficiencies: Integrating Green Roof and Photovoltaic Research. The project focuses on collecting data that proves integrating green roof and solar panel (photovoltaic) technologies can improve the efficiencies of both.

“Solar panels produce more power at cooler temperatures,” said Daily. “Scott’s been doing research on green roofs and one of the effects is that it reduces the ambient temperature of the roof.”

According to Tjaden, green roofs can get anywhere from 120 to 150 degrees on a summer day. “The idea is to put plants on the roof that can utilize the sun energy through photosynthesis and other natural processes.” Tjaden said the plants would absorb the radiant energy and ultimately reduce the temperature down to 90 to 105 degrees, which is a substantial decrease.

“The theory is that if we integrate the green roof and photovoltaics, the green roof will lower the temperature around the solar panels and improve its efficiencies,” said Daily.

The duo had been working on the project for a year and half before they heard any rumors about the competition. The idea came to them during a solar decathlon where Tjaden was the living systems, living aspects student leader while Daily was the engineering student leader. At the decathlon, they had to build a house that ran entirely on solar energy.

During the project, they were working on two separate roofs; one green roof and another photovoltaic roof. The two minds met and decided to combine them and it has been a work in progress ever since. Once they heard about the Green Fund Fellowship, they saw it as a great opportunity to present their work.

“When we heard about it, we thought, ‘Okay, we’re graduate students, we’re interdisciplinary, and we already have a project, and we do need more funds; why not?” said Daily. As it played out, that “Why not?” turned into a $10k award.

Right now, the physical structure of the combined green roof and photovoltaic project sits on top of the A.V. Williams Mesa Solar Lab building on campus, which the team owes to the help of Brian Quinn, Director of Technical Operations in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who helped them find a space to do their research. “We have a set of photovoltaics with the green roof modules, and one without and we’re monitoring the output and temperature in those areas,” concluded Daily.

According to Tjaden, “With the [grant] money, we plan to boost the monitoring system to make sure the data we’re getting is correct.” As for their plans for the next year before presenting their findings to the Council? “Over the next year we’ll be updating data and then come up with our final presentation for the board,” said Daily.

The team hopes to publish their findings after two full years of data.


Reprinted from Council on the Environment (ConE) with permission.