Increased Panel Height Enhances Cooling for Photovoltaic Solar Farms

Sarah Smith, Bianca Viggiano, Naseem Ali, Timothy Silverman, Martin Obligado, Marc Calaf, Raul Cal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus Citations


Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems suffer substantial efficiency loss due to environmental and internal heating. However, increasing the canopy height of these systems promotes surface heat transfer and boosts production. This work represents the first wind tunnel experiments to explore this concept in terms of array flow behavior and relative convective heat transfer, comparing model solar arrays of varied height arrangements - a nominal height, extended height, and a staggered height configuration. Analyses of surface thermocouple data show average Nusselt number (Nu) to increase with array elevation, where panel convection at double height improved up to 1.88 times that of the nominal case. This behavior is an effect of sub-array entrainment of high velocity flow and panel interactions as evidenced through flow statistics and mean kinetic energy budgets on particle image velocimetry (PIV) data. The staggered height arrangement encourages faster sub-panel flow than in the nominal array. Despite sub-array blockage due to the lower panel interaction, heat shedding at panel surfaces promotes improvements on Nu over 1.3 times that of the nominal height case.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number119819
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-83464


  • Convective heat transfer
  • Experimental fluid dynamics
  • Photovoltaic
  • Solar farms
  • Turbulence


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