One Method to Cool the Planet May Increase Energy UseCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: November 12, 2012 09:03AM
If nothing else, this research stresses the point of why thorough research must be done before mandates are made. A proposed way to cool the planet is to change the reflectivity, or albedo, of roads and other paved surfaces. The more reflective the more light returns to space instead of heating Earth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego though have crunched the numbers and found this could actually increase humanity's energy use if not applied prudently.
While much of the light reflected by the roads will head for space, some of it, more than from darker roads, will impact buildings near the street. This increase in light coming in through windows and hitting the walls will cause the building to warm up. That means that during the hot and bright summer, air conditioning units will have to work harder to cool the buildings, which means they have to draw more power. For newer, better insulated buildings energy consumption could increase by 4.5% to 9.5%, according to the researchers' model, but older buildings could see a jump of 5% to 11%.
Of course this study is not suggesting that it is a bad idea to make roads more reflective. In fact it suggests places the higher-albedo roads could be used, without impacting energy consumption, such as warehouses without climate control. Instead it is demonstrating that we must be more conscientious about applying this specific strategy, which some laws and bills already support.