One environmental conflict that’s tricky to solve is the need to reduce fossil fuel use in order to address climate change versus increasing demands for energy to improve living comfort. Scientists at the University of Malaya have designed a roof that could help address the conflict that has driven attention to more efficient sustainable energy sources, particularly in emerging economies.
The roof’s most striking feature is a V-shaped structure that sits on top of a peaked roof. This structure channels wind into a set of turbines situated below it to generate electricity as they turn. The structure also improves natural ventilation by increasing the airflow inside the building by means of vents built into the peaked roof. A rainwater harvester that is also connected to an automated cleaning and cooling system washes solar cells embedded in the sloped roof to keep them efficient. The main rooms inside the building are brightened by transparent skylights during the daytime. This eliminates the need for artificial lighting.
The team noted that the roof could be used in rural and urban settings. The fact that the roof is added to an existing building creates minimal visual impact. Approximately 4,200-kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy is used by the average person in Malaysia per year. The researchers estimate that the roof can save 1,840 kWh per year because of its skylights. It also generates more than 21,200 kWh of energy a year. This could support about six people. The rainwater harvester could collect nearly 525 cubic meters of water, while the venting system could move 217 million cubic meters of air and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a massive 17,768 kilos.
The team noted that the location of the roof determined its energy yield. They added that their test location was situated in a low wind area, so payback would likely be far bigger in windier areas. Regional weather data could be used to determine the ideal position of the eco-roof and it could be adjusted for local rainfall, sunlight and wind direction.