Parking lots could become 'solar groves' (w/ Video)

July 12, 2010 by Lin Edwards report

( -- Architect Robert Noble, who specializes in sustainable design has come up with the idea of turning parking lots into "solar groves" that shade the vehicles, generate electricity, and serve as recharging stations for electric vehicles.

Noble first had the idea of large solar canopies in 2004. A few companies were building carports with , but Noble’s idea went much further, and the following year he founded Envision Solar, which has since become the major developer of solar carports in the US. It also produces what it calls the Solar Grove to shade entire parking lots. The groves consist of large canopies covered with . In some installations some light is allowed to filter through to the ground beneath.

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Envision Solar - Shopping Center

Large-scale solar groves have already been installed at the San Diego headquarters of the Kyocera Corporation of Japan, the headquarters of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Centacor at Horsham, Pennsylvania, and the University of California in San Diego. The latter has two solar canopies, the Hopkins Parking Structure, which is built on the top floor of a parking garage, and the Gilman Parking Structure at one of the campus’s busiest entrances, where it is a constant reminder of the commitment of UCSD to sustainability.

The latest project of the company, in conjunction with Coulomb Technologies, a developer of charging stations for electric and hybrid vehicles, is the Solar Tree prototype at the National Renewable Energy laboratory (part of the Department of Energy) in Golden, Colorado. This pilot project covers two parking spaces and includes two AC outlets for charging plug-in hybrids or . A Solar Tree consists of a solar canopy with a single pole structure, and can be part of a multi-tree structure, or a single "tree" installation in a back yard, for example.

Hopkins Parking Structure, a recent addition to the UC San Diego campus.

A large installation including two solar-to-electric vehicle charging stations has been installed at the headquarters of Dell Computers in Round Rock, Texas. This installation includes 11 Solar Trees that generate about 131,000 kWh per year and shade 56 parking spaces.

Covering parking lots with solar groves could reduce the criticism often aimed at electric car manufacturers, that the vehicles need to use that often does not come from renewable sources, and it could also reduce criticisms about excessive land use for large-scale solar power plants. Mr Noble said that converting the “desert of concrete parking lots” into small power plants sidesteps both problems.

The Solar Tree at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, is the prototype of the future. Covering just two parking spaces, it is a pilot project that includes two integrated AC outlets for charging hybrid electric vehicles that NREL has converted into plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).

Mr Noble said it would take some time, but he hopes that in perhaps 20 years or so there could be a “hyperconvergence” of transport, energy and infrastructure that could lead to widespread deployment of solar canopies for parking lots.

Explore further: Chicago Installs Solar Powered Charging Station for Electric Vehicles

More information:

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5 / 5 (4) Jul 12, 2010
Very good use of open space like this.

Other places could be train tracks, the towers that hold the power lines up could have a solar panel above it.
Or just powerline towers in general, those things are tall, they could channel the power directly in to the lines.

Some would suggest the side walls of large buildings, but unless they are in sunshine for most of the day, the energy used to make all those panels would have been a waste.
So buildings high north and low south are the only ones that will really benefit.
5 / 5 (4) Jul 12, 2010
Some would suggest the side walls of large buildings, but unless they are in sunshine for most of the day, the energy used to make all those panels would have been a waste.
So buildings high north and low south are the only ones that will really benefit.
Well you'd get benefit based on season everywhere else. Not necessarily a waste.

I agree with you for the most part, it's a pretty great idea.

Solves 2 problems,
1 - Hot car syndrome
2 - PHEV chargability.
4 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2010
It will never happen in meaningful numbers. It's a great idea that makes perfect sense. It takes a step toward better energy independence. It allows for a cleaner car infrastructure. It uses space that was just wasted before. It will never happen,good sensible ideas never do, especially in the U.S. where a country that pushes the limits of technology never uses any of it.
4 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2010
Brilliant! I can already imagine going to Walmart and parking in front of it. This would add yet another aspect to the one-stop-shopping. Such a big company could help speed up the conversion to a new system.

I always thought it would be really hard for large oil companies to modify their current gas stations to add some electricity outlets so close to the flammable gasoline pumps.
5 / 5 (3) Jul 12, 2010
This could actually be written into zoning laws for certain high solar index areas with state, local and federal incentive programs offsetting the costs. this is actually an exciting idea.
not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
this is such a wonderful ideas. how about these parking lot will be reserved for hybrid, electric car only? that would inspire people using electric car!!! and by that reduce air polution.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2010
Issues that come to mind.... Grime ..bird crap.. & dust removal... Bad drivers knocking into the panel support legs, rain / sleet storms, snow loads... Granted many of those issues have to be dealt with when deploying convensional panels but regular panels aren't installed insuch an odd way, lots of running up down up down when servicing all the panels.... Howwever unlike convensional panels these are within arms reach of droves of people. I certainly like the concept of utilizing the massive amount of blacktop parking lots but there are lots of things that need to be resolved b4 this would ever be considered.. Finally, this does get in the way of a mall owner who may one day want to convert ordinaly blacktop parking spots into an X level parking structure..
not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
Some would suggest the side walls of large buildings,

Check out the winning house of the solar decathlon in washington
They use PV on the side of the house which works under in ambient light (they even generated excess energy during rainy weather!)

Grime ..bird crap.. & dust removal
Window washer or nanoparticle surfaces (lotus-effect) which will clean it off with the next rain. These are the two standard solutions already on the market.

The solar grove idea is good, but the amount of energy captured in such an area is not enough to charge cars (maybe one). It's more of a 'shade area for cars' with PR-stunt capable PV cells.

But still: PV needs a lot of space and using parking lots is a good idea. Especially since transmission loss to the user are practically zero.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2010
Again it is a partial solution. 50 2% solutions can get you there if there's not too much overlap, but how many could afford most of this stuff? PV panels for most obvious applications are too expensive today, but gotta start somewhere. There will be a market in a few places.

Until the cost comes way down, writing this with today's economics into zoning rules as some suggest just scares me.
not rated yet Jul 18, 2010
They did this at USF 30 yrs ago!! I plug my EV in it when I go there.

PV has dropped in price, now under $2/wt retail, among others.

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