We recently posted a blog on a study that found that open car parking lots have a significant detrimental effect on the environment – including raising heat due to absorption into the concrete (which can raise temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius according to Indiana state climatologist Dev Niyogi), as well as contaminants from vehicles being washed away by rainwater. See our blog post ‘How many more car parks do you need than cars?’ here.
So why not put this “wasteland” to better use? A US-based company has announced this month that it is testing a ‘solar tree’ device, mounted on a stand that allows it to track the sun as it moves across the sky. It is intended specifically to be used in parking lots, providing not only energy generation but shade to cars parked underneath (and a reduction in the amount of heat absorbed by the concrete below). The company calls it ‘solar forestation’.
Covered parking has other benefits, some of which would be preserved by the solar trees. They require electric cables laid in trenches, affording an opportunity to set up charging stations for electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids – assisting with increasing the range of hybrid vehicles.
Energy from the panels will flow back into the power grid, and if charging stations are installed, they will draw energy from the grid, allowing electric cars to charge even when it is cloudy or dark.
Whilst it’s not the first example of solar charging being installed in parking lots; it’s great to see the technology advancing and becoming more commonplace. The biggest problem in our opinion is the pay back period. Whilst in the US businesses receive significant grants to install solar panels (making the economic decision affordable) we can’t say the same for Australia where the numbers are not yet adding up!
If you’re interested in this article; you may be interested in some further reading:
One of the largest (fixed) parking structure solar arrays in the US has been installed in New Jersey – a 1 MW system on the parking lot of an auto auction facility. http://cleantechnica.com/2010/01/14/huge-parking-lot-solar-array-powers-grid-with-over-a-million-annual-kilowatt-hours/
Michael Bloch, an Australian solar consultant has written an article about ‘solar forests’ and the effect of any shading on the solar panels: http://solarpanelspower.net/solar-panels/solar-forest-needs-thinning
Solar parking lots for bicycles, set up by Sanyo in Toyko, with the ability to charge 100 electric hybrid bicycles from sunlight-powered panels. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-technology/sanyo-sets-up-solar-parking-lots-for-electric-bikes-20100316-qcb6.html
What do you think of ‘solar forests’? Have you seen any other great examples of this technology around the world?