The heat waves in the US have become more and more common as climate change has worsened in recent years. SkyCool Systems is a relatively new company attempting to combat the harmful greenhouse gases emitted from excessive air conditioning use throughout the country through new technology.
“Our planet naturally cools itself by sending heat out in the form of infrared light or radiation. We’re using that effect to essentially radiate heat out during the day and at night, even under direct sunlight.”
Eli Goldstein is SkyCool’s co-founder and CEO who explained that this process is known as radiative cooling. SkyCool uses rooftop panels made using nanotechnology and optical film that radiates infrared light and cools itself in the process.
According to the company these panels work in the opposite way that traditional solar panels do by reflecting about 97% of the sunlight that hits them, and cooling the surface below.
The SkyCool model involves an embedded network of pipes that are below the panels. These pipes are filled with water that’s kept cool by the panels and then can flow into a refrigeration or air conditioning system. The goal is to take pressure off the AC or fridge cooling systems which can use a lot of energy.
The panels also cool themselves naturally and don’t require any external power to function, which helps the entire house use less electricity during times of extreme heat.
Jesus Valenzuela is the store manager at a grocery outlet store in Stockton, California which recently adopted the SkyCool system technology.
“After we had our SkyCool system installed, our electricity company increased their rates on us. We actually didn’t see our bill go up at all. In fact, we saw it go just a little bit down. I estimate that the panels have saved the store roughly $3,000 a month.”
Goldstein’s co-founder and UCLA professor Aaswath Raman is one of many scientists who have been researching the benefits of radiative cooling for years now. Raman is an expert in the field who claims that while several similar solutions have appeared in recent years, there have also been challenges, like how well the technology works without sunlight.
“Our technology works best in hot, dry climates where the sky is clear, so when you have clouds, that blocks that radiative cooling window. In the same way that [carbon dioxide] blocks light and sort of has that heat trapping effect, water vapor also will block infrared light.”
“The biggest obstacle to making the technology ubiquitous is its relatively high cost. Most radiative cooling solutions suffer from a high manufacturing cost and large-scale production limits,” researchers at China’s Fudan University wrote in a paper published in the journal Nature.
Goldstein claims that SkyCool’s panels do cost more than solar panels, but didn’t disclose the actual cost.
“New technologies like radiative cooling are often more expensive. People are very sensitive to first cost, and so that is another barrier to getting new things out there.”
“Much of that is because of low production volumes. Scaling up production could help bring the cost down, particularly for developing countries in Asia and Africa where we hope to eventually expand. For now, we’re focused on commercial applications of the technology, though we hope to start installing panels on the roofs of individual homes.”
“We’re just excited to be able to use this new technology for good,” Goldstein said.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.