Rooftop Solar Panels Could Power One-Third Of US Manufacturing Sector

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  • Rooftop solar arrays have the potential to meet the annual electricity demands of up to 35% of US manufacturing sectors.
  • On-site sources of renewable energy currently supply less than 0.1% of industrial electricity demand in the US.
  • The industrial sector accounts for 38% of global energy consumption and 37% of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Despite having the potential to cover 13.6% of the national electricity demand, rooftop solar arrays currently account for just 2.2% of the electricity grid mix.

A recent study published in the journal Environmental Research: Sustainability and Infrastructure has examined the possibility of using solar panels installed on the rooftops of industrial buildings to meet the electricity needs of up to 35% of US manufacturers. The study has investigated the feasibility of such on-site solar panel installations for various regions and manufacturing sectors across the United States.

Researchers from Northeastern University conducted a study to determine if solar panels installed on the rooftops of industrial buildings in the US could meet the electricity demand of manufacturers. The study used data from the US Department of Energy Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey to compare the potential electricity generation of rooftop solar panels against the electricity demand per unit of floor space for the average manufacturing building. The study found that rooftop solar panels could meet the entire electricity demand of 5-35% of US manufacturing sectors, depending on the season, with companies in the furniture, textiles, and apparel sectors benefiting the most. The study was published in the journal Environmental Research: Sustainability and Infrastructure.

Dr Matthew Eckelman, who is an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University, explains that the manufacturing sector in the US generates less than 0.1% of its electricity from renewable, on-site sources. In order to achieve decarbonization goals, this needs to change. He adds that rooftop solar panels are now a feasible option for providing low-carbon energy to many manufacturing companies.

The industrial sector is a major contributor to energy usage and associated greenhouse gas and carbon emissions globally. Manufacturing has become a target for global decarbonization efforts, and many companies are switching to lower-carbon energy sources. The study shows that rooftop solar panels could be a feasible option for many manufacturing units due to their large flat rooftops, falling prices, improved efficiencies, and flexibility in installation. In the spring and summer, manufacturing companies across almost 40% of US locations could meet their electricity needs with rooftop solar arrays.

Dr. Matthew Eckelman, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University, suggests that policymakers should focus on the feasibility and potential benefits of rooftop solar panels to help industries achieve renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions goals. He believes that the new study provides valuable information on the locations and sectors for which rooftop solar arrays could significantly help manufacturing firms to reach these goals.

Courtesy of Institute of Physics (IOP) Publishing

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