A new law was approved in France recently that requires the rooftops of every new building in a commercial zone to be partially covered with either solar panels or plants. Environmental activists in France wanted all new buildings to be completely covered by plants or solar panels, but the French government only went about halfway to that point.
It did not want to pass a law that would be too “extreme.” The rationale was that legislation that imposes too much extra cost on businesses (even if it’s just upfront costs leading to financial savings) can have a damaging effect on an economy. (It will be interesting to see if there will also be an economically stimulating impact due to the extra solar power activity and extra purchase of plants and supporting materials.)
The point of adding solar panels is obvious enough — generating electricity cleanly — but if you’re confused about the second part, including plants can help buildings by deflecting sunlight so that they stay cooler during hot periods, and they also provide extra insulation that allows the buildings to retain heat during cold weather.
Over the long term, building owners might save money by generating a portion of their own electricity and by paying less in utility bills (if their green rooftops do reduce cooling and heating costs significantly).
Interestingly, solar panels not only generate electricity, but also have a similar insulating effect. Green rooftops also attract and support birds in urban settings that can otherwise be fairly inhospitable to them. They also can help reduce the heat island effect in urban areas, so temperatures during summers are comfortably decreased.
American researchers found a number of years ago, that green rooftops can reduce global warming and climate change. “The researchers found that replacing traditional roofing materials with green roofs in an urban area the size of Detroit, with a population of about one million, would capture more than 55,000 tons of carbon. That is roughly similar to eliminating a year’s worth of carbon dioxide emitted by 10,000 mid-sized SUVs and trucks.”
NASA has published some information on green rooftops as well.
Of course, green rooftops are probably more aesthetically appealing, but this effect is not agreed upon by all.
While the new law didn’t go that far, people could choose to put both plants and solar panels on their roofs….
Related Story: Green Roofs & Solar Panels: The Future of Renewable Energy?
Image Credit: Eric Pouhler, Wiki Commons
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