Viewing Convection as a Solar Farm Phenomenon Broadens Modern Power Predictions for Solar Photovoltaics

Sarah E. Smith, Brooke J. Stanislawski, Byron Kasey Eng, Naseem Ali, Timothy J. Silverman, Marc Calaf, Raúl Bayoán Cal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus Citations


Heat mitigation for large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays is crucial to extend lifetime and energy harvesting capacity. PV module temperature is dependent on site-specific farm geometry, yet common predictions consider panel-scale and environmental factors only. Here, we characterize convective cooling in diverse PV array designs, capturing combined effects of spatial and atmospheric variation on panel temperature and production. Parameters, including row spacing, panel inclination, module height, and wind velocity, are explored through wind tunnel experiments, high-resolution numerical simulations, and operating field data. A length scale based on fractal lacunarity encapsulates all aspects of arrangement (angle, height, etc.) in a single value. When applied to the Reynolds number Re within the canonical Nusselt number heat transfer correlation, lacunarity reveals a relationship between convection and farm-specific geometry. This correlation can be applied to existing and forthcoming array designs to optimize convective cooling, ultimately increasing production and PV cell life.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberArticle No. 063502
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Author(s).

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-81817


  • convection
  • power
  • solar
  • temperature
  • thermal


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