A new direction for solar? The potential of solar parking
Laurence Mackler, founder of Solaire Generation, says his company has installed 50MW of carports across the country. Costs have come down over the years, but the growth of solar parking lots is still limited in some states, depending on the economic factors involved. For this reason, in the United States at least, solar parking lots have only really appeared in Arizona, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and California, according to a 2014 market study by GTM Research.
In the UK, solar car parks could be a stepping stone because of the hostile attitude adopted by the government, as, according to Peter Bennett, writing in Solar Power Portal earlier this year, the industry is now looking for alternatives to solar farms and on a larger scale. This means large roof areas could come into play, but it also depends on the effect recent subsidy cuts will have on the sector as a whole if implemented in January 2016.
According to Andy Walsh, general manager of roof and carport sales at Belectric, solar parking lots could be attractive for businesses with heavy electricity bills, especially retail stores, as they could appeal to customers. due to the protective function of the canopy.
Ray Noble, winner of the Solar Power Portal Outstanding Achievement Award 2014, speaking to Solar Business Focus UK, said that the square footage of supermarket car parks, compared to the square footage of the store building itself, is typically once and half larger. Since the store roof often has a number of obstructions that would only cover around 50% of the roof, the associated parking lot represents double the solar generation opportunity.
“Solar carports are still in their infancy, but they will certainly grow,” said Chris Bratherton, director of business development at Ecolution Renewables, which installed a 49.95 kWp (kilowatts peak) solar carport project in south-east London, speaking to Solar Power Portal. “There are two scenarios: you have communities and large companies that have already filled their attics with solar that will be more open to more solar, they will be further down the chain and will seek additional productive space. And then you’ll have people whose businesses are already tied to electric vehicles or parking – the Bluewaters of this world. If you look at the mall, the roof is mostly glass domes or skylights and their parking lot is huge.