Characterization of shear stress distribution on a flat roof with solar collectors

Thomas Thiis,

Almerindo D. Ferreira,

Markus Molnar,

Arnold V. Erichsen


In the search for new renewable energy sources, photovoltaic systems and solar thermal collectors have become more common in buildings. With increased efficiency and demand for energy, solar power has also become exploitable at higher latitudes where snow is a major load on buildings. For flat roofs, one usually expects approximately 80% of the snow to be eroded off the roof surface. Installing solar panels would change this since the flow pattern and wind conditions on the roof are affected by their presence. This study shows the erosion of sand particles from underneath solar panels of various configurations associated with different wind velocities. The pattern of erosion is used to determine the relative friction velocity, u*REL, of the wind on the roof. This value is the friction velocity on the roof relative to the friction velocity on a flat roof without solar panels. The experiments, conducted in a wind tunnel, showthat the area where u*REL is 0 and where it is expected that sand and snow will accumulate in case of an upwind particle source and decrease with increasing distances between roof and solar panel. It is also shown that a larger gap between the solar panel and roof surface creates larger erosion zones, where u*REL > 1 for both wind directions. Since the erosion is closely linked to the air flow under the solar panels, and that higher air velocity increases the erosion, it is likely that a larger solar panel, extending higher into the free air flow would be desirable to avoid snow accumulation on a flat roof with solar panels. If the solar panel has large enough dimensions, the solar panels can be used as a deflector to decrease snow accumulation on flat roofs. With solar panels of the size in the current experiments, a building with a length smaller than the equivalent of x/L = 0.3 would have u*REL > 1 on most of the roof surface and would thus likely have a lower snow load than an equivalent float roof without solar panels.

Słowa kluczowe: wind engineering, wind tunnel, snow load, environmental actions, wind erosion

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