4. PV systems – integration in buildings and community
Ultimately, to be useful, photovoltaics must be deployed in human societies. In this research area, we seek to understand the varied factors contributing to individual and community decisions on whether or not to incorporate solar electricity into our lives. PV systems can be integrated into building architecture and into outdoor public spaces with designs that enhance the aesthetics in places where people live, work, and play, rather than detracting from them. The spectral reflectance and emittance of PV modules also need to be designed to minimize the temperature of the modules, and of the inhabited environments in which they are deployed. PV system design which merges the functions of power generation and shade with a form that is pleasing to those interacting with it creates desirability, value, and cost-effectiveness beyond simply the replacement cost of the electricity it generates.
In other aspects of this work, we are investigating how PV system design can improve life in low- and middle-income communities in Puerto Rico, to supply everyday power needs for home and small business, to supply reliable power in the aftermath of natural disasters such as hurricane Maria, and to enable emergency deployment of PV power in remote areas after such disasters. Perhaps most crucially, we are looking at low-cost energy storage options (e.g., using the expanding fleet of electric vehicles, thermal storage such as chilled water for air conditioning), grid stability and other issues that arise as the penetration of PV expands toward 50-100% of the electricity generated in the U.S.