Adjusting barriers and spacing of solar panels can boost performance
At high temperatures, solar panels degrade faster and become less efficient. Stanislawski et al. simulated heat and air flow through photovoltaic (PV) plants to assess how various designs enhance PV module cooling.
In previous work, the authors identified uniformly increased row spacing as a potential cooling mechanism, but more recent work explored other strategies.
“When examining barrier walls and variable spacing designs, we found that barrier walls more effectively cool the PV farm on average,” said author Brooke Stanislawski.
The researchers took a systems-level approach based on fluid mechanics to simulate creative PV plant designs that achieve cooler PV panels.
“With this data, we learned about row-by-row differences in air flow and temperature that may lead to improvements in maintenance and performance modeling,” said Stanislawski.
While the team previously thought that the addition of walls might heat the PV plant because it prevents horizontal airflow, they found that the walls drive vertical air flow. Under these wind conditions, each wall creates a low-pressure region just downstream that sucks in cooler air from above the farm, which, in turn, expels the hot air, resulting in cooler air and module temperatures.
These modeled barriers might represent hedges of vegetation or wind fences in agricultural settings. Future work could model more realistic obstacles with porosity — such as hedges, trees, or fences, amidst varied wind conditions. By understanding wind patterns and thermal behavior in PV plants, it is possible to design the layout of PV plants in a way that can lead to higher performance, especially in applications such as agrivoltaics.
Source: “Barriers and variable spacing enhance convective cooling and increase power output in solar PV plants,” by Brooke J. Stanislawski, Todd Harman, Raúl Bayoán Cal, and Marc Calaf, Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy (2023). The article can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0177420 .