Solar Over the Parking Lot

solar panelsOpen air parking lots are great places to build solar power plants:

Parking lots are nearly always near a power grid connection. This cuts electricity transmission losses as well as the cost of installing the solar plant.

Parking lots are nearly always near at least one building that needs electricity. Not only is this good for the building owner, but what solar electricity the building doesn’t need can be sold to the grid.

Parking lots in themselves are not wasted space, but the air above them is. Huge expanses of concrete or asphalt are built to attract customers or provide a place for employees to store their commuting conveyances. But that’s it. The air above open parking lots is underutilized space, wasted when it could be put to work.

Parking lots are cheap land. If a building developer can afford to pave over land that often covers more area than the building itself, then the land must be really inexpensive.

Parking lots are plentiful. Ever notice how much land is taken up by places to put cars and trucks? Ever notice how much area of a parking lot is often empty?

Parking lots are baked in sunlight. Some open air parking lots have minimal shade from trees, but most are open to the direct glare of Sun.

In the current dragging economy building owners should take note: A parking lot could become a cost reducer or even a revenue center with solar energy installed. A solar power plant above parking lot acreage could cut energy costs from the grid, provided solar power generated is kept below grid prices with incentives. Solar power not consumed could also be sold to the grid provided the grid operator is willing to buy the excess power at a good rate. If profits are waning, cost cutting measures or new income opportunities are always appreciated by businesses.

There’s also an indirect benefit of solar covered parking areas. Shaded, covered parking areas are an obvious plus for customers or employees on hot sunny days as well as rainy ones. When the weather is bad or too hot the covered solar covered parking lot would likely be the preferred one.

Finally, when plug-in electric vehicles become commonplace, a solar power parking lot with charging connections could be attractive for plug-in drivers: Charged with solar energy an electric car becomes a solar electric car.

Here are a couple of recent solar-over-the-parking-lot news items:

— REC Solar, of San Luis Obispo, California, has been awarded a second contract to design and install a turnkey 2.9 MW solar electric carport-mounted system for the Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System (SAVAHCS) in Tucson. The project is in addition to the 302 kW single-axis tracker-mounted system that REC Solar has built for SAVAHCS.

REC claims the project built on the roofs of seven separate existing carports will be, in aggregate, the largest carport solar system in the country. (It will be number one until the solar parking lot facility in the following news item gets built.)

— Solaire Generation, a leading designer, manufacturer and installer of solar photovoltaic (PV) parking structures, has been selected to supply solar parking canopies for of one of the largest solar power installations at a single commercial site in the U.S. The overall 4.1 megawatt solar-power project is being built at a Fortune 100 corporate office campus in central New Jersey. The project is scheduled to reach completion by early 2011.

The Solaire Parking Canopies™ will support more than 11,350 high-efficiency solar panels and will cover about 1,350 parking spaces. When complete, a total of 1.1 miles of canopies, which feature a patented dual incline design, will support a PV solar power system providing electricity equal to the annual consumption of more than 320 U.S. households.

Solaire’s Canopies are essentially carports offering an integrated decking and gutter system that protects people and cars from snow and ice, and protects the wiring and panels from unauthorized access. Snow and rainwater captured by the canopies can be recycled for irrigation and other gray water uses.

Solaire expects to build canopies supporting at least 5 MW of installed capacity by the end of 2010.

Which would be better, a nation blanketed with solar parking lots, or as it is now, a nation blanketed in millions of acres of open air parking lots?

Source: Green Energy News

Solar canopy parking lots would be a great idea for sunny South Africa (and very welcome by shoppers who leave their vehicles baking in the African sun!).  South Africa hasn’t reached the point where excess renewable energy can be sold back to the grid operator (Eskom) but it will become a reality in the near future.  Eskom has recognised the need for renewable energy generation by the private sector.  Eskom’s renewable energy rebate programme is aimed at homeowners that want to install solar water heating systems.  Water Rhapsody Mpumalanga & Limpopo has incorporated Yes Solar so that in addition to our water conservation systems (rainwater harvesting, greywater systems, JoJo rain water tanks), we can offer high quality, German-made solar geysers.  The range of solar geysers that we can supply currently have the best Eskom rebate rating in South Africa (i.e. you get the most out of the rebate scheme).  These renewable energy rebates are not indefinite; the money available is likely to run out.  Now is the time to take advantage of the Eskom rebate; contact us for a free quote!

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,