Both types of roofs have advantages. Green roofs do not produce energy (in some cases just fruits) but they do not consume that much energy for production of panels, installation and control and do not need treatment after use. So what are the either advantages and disadvantages compared with each other?

  • For other instance, put two solar panels on a pole, above a tree, in a parking lot. A 6" diameter brushed-finish 304L round tube with a 0.120" wall thickness is set 4' directly in a concrete footing with 16' above the ground. At a lateral load of 200 lbs there is a 1.64" deflection of the round tube. The 304L round tube, in regular finish, is found at $2640 price. The 304L will never rust, corrode, or need painting. – S Spring Oct 10 '20 at 14:44

The two are not mutually exclusive, and in fact installing PV panels over a green roof improves PV performance anywhere from 1 to 10% due to the cooling effect of the green roof.

From the presentation "Interaction between PV-systems and extensive green roofs" given at the Fifth Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards and Trade Show in 2007 (emphasis added):

The energy output of PV-panels depends on several factors. In this survey of over approximately 5 years of data, the effect of the green roof has been estimated at an average 6% increase in yields. But the green roof is only one factor in enhancing the efficiency of PV-panels. The total range of increased energy output varies between 1 and 10%. PV over green roofs can be mounted on fixed frames. The costs are lower in comparison to the tracking systems, which follow the sun. Under the PV panels, a variety of extensive green roof vegetation can be grown. In the case of UFA it was originally a Sedum roof but this was subsequently changed to include a wide variety of plantings. Minimum garden roof maintenance is required to reduce taller growing plants. The PV – cells must be without shade. The estimated benefit of a higher Power output from a green roof can help to offset the cost of green roof installations.

This effect is attributable to the fact that solar panels are more efficient when kept cooler, which a green roof facilitates through evaporative cooling.

Several other research studies verify this finding:


I would put these two things in separate categories of sustainable technology.

Green roofs are sustainable in the sense that the provide extra insulation and the building the cover will require less energy. They also require a great deal of maintenance and energy so the benefits are mostly superficial while the dis advantages in terms of cost and effort to maintain is high.

Photovoltaics, roof top solar panels, are going to have a much bigger impact of sustainability in the big picture.

I think green roofs are gorgeous and must be fun for architects to design but solar panels are what you want if you care about sustainability.

  • Don't green roofs also help a lot to prevent floods? – gerrit May 3 '18 at 10:13
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    Welcome to sustainability.SE! Thanks for your thoughts and answer. Can you provide some numbers to support your conclusions? Is it possible that the energy savings from the insulation value of a green roof could be greater than what a PV system would produce? What energy input does a green roof require? – LShaver May 3 '18 at 13:51
  • I am not an environmental scientist, I am a computer scientist. I have collaborated with sustainable technology researchers at csus.edu/storc when I was a student. My conclusions therefore are better classified as opinions based on cost and effort to build the systems in questions. a PV system produces energy that can be used to offset other less sustainable methods of energy production which is a huge boost to its sustainability score. Green roofs, for the same square footage, are going to merely offset some of the insulation value while likely being more of a cost and effort to maintain. – connor May 4 '18 at 19:30

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