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Rooftop Solar Panels Could Power Up to 35% Of US Manufacturing

Solar panels installed on industrial building rooftops might meet the total electricity requirement of up to 35% of US manufacturers. A recent study published in the journal Environmental Research: Sustainability and Infrastructure by IOP Publishing analyzes the possibility of satisfying these electricity demands through on-site solar panel installations in various areas and manufacturing sectors across the United States.

Rooftop Solar Panels Could Power Up to 35% Of US Manufacturing

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The research, spearheaded by Northeastern University researchers, compares the potential electricity generation of rooftop solar arrays to the average manufacturing building’s electricity usage per unit of floor space using the US Department of Energy Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey.

According to the findings, rooftop solar arrays could meet the electricity needs of 5–35% of US manufacturing sectors depending on the season, with industries producing furniture, textiles, and apparel benefiting the most.

Currently, less than 0.1% of the electricity required by the manufacturing sector in the US is generated through renewable, on-site sources. This must change if we are going to meet decarbonization goals, and in many cases rooftop solar panels are now a feasible option for supplying low-carbon energy.

Dr. Matthew Eckelman, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University

Internationally, the industrial sector contributes significantly to energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas and carbon emissions. As a result, manufacturing has emerged as a key focus for worldwide decarbonization initiatives, with many firms shifting to lower-carbon energy sources.

According to the new study, rooftop solar panels may now be a viable option for many manufacturing units due to their large, flat rooftops, as well as lowering prices, greater efficiency, and installation flexibility. Seasonally, rooftop solar arrays might meet the electricity needs of manufacturing enterprises in approximately 40% of US locations in the spring and summer.

Greater policy attention on the feasibility and potential benefits of rooftop solar panel arrays will help industries to achieve renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions goals. Our research provides an indication of the locations and sectors for which rooftop solar arrays could significantly help manufacturing firms to reach these goals.

Dr. Matthew Eckelman, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University

Journal Reference:

Namin, A. T., et al. (2023). Technical feasibility of powering U.S. manufacturing with rooftop solar PV. Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability.

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