California schools soak up sun with solar carports

california-schools-carport3We’ve written before about a solar carport and solar-powered EV charging station revolution that is underway in the United States, in particular in the American West and Southwest.

More evidence of the growing presence of solar carports and solar EV charging stations comes in the form of an article published today in the New York Times about an explosion of carports in Northern California.

Solar carport vs. solar-powered EV charging station

carport-envison-solar1Solar carport = A basic parking structure with solar panels on it. The electricity the panels produce either flows directly into the electric grid (very common) and/or is stored via batteries on site (uncommon). Charging stations for electric vehicles are not necessarily integrated into a basic solar carport – although they can be, at which point a solar carport is more accurately described as a solar-powered EV charging station (see below).

capport-nyit-solar-carport-smallSolar-powered EV charging station: A solar-powered EV charging station is a specific type of solar carport – one equipped with charging stations for electric vehicles. When solar energy is being generated by the solar panels on top of a solar-powered EV charging station (panels can sometimes be on a building rooftop nearby), that energy flows directly into the batteries of an EV parked underneath it – or next to it. When no electric vehicle is plugged in to the EV Charging Station, typically the electricity generated by the solar panels on the solar part of the charging station flows into the general electric grid. If not enough electricity is being produced by the solar panels on site to charge the batteries of the EVs that have plugged into the station, that electricity is drawn from the general electric grid. It is possible to have an off-the-grid solar-powered EV charging station. For instance, SunPods, which makes portable EV-charging stations, makes a version of the SunPod which offers battery storage for the solar-generated electricity.

As one source interviewed by the Times, Michelle O’Shea, a science teacher at Leland High School in southwestern San Jose, where the parking lot went solar a year ago, told the newspaper, “[Solar carports] will soon be the norm. It will be hard to imagine that we didn’t do this [before].”

According to the NYT, solar carports have been installed at 75 elementary, high school and community college campuses in California, the majority of them in the San Francisco area.

And interest in the systems is growing.

“I’ve gotten calls from Hawaii, from Canada, from all over California,” John Cimino, the director of maintenance, operations and transportation for the Milpitas Unified School District, northeast of San Jose, told the Times.

Not surprising given the money the carports are projected to save Milpitas Unified — $12 million over 20 years, not to mention the shade benefit and the educational benefit of solar panels installed over parking lots.

Milpitas Unified has installed enough solar, mostly in the form of solar carports, to cover 75 percent of its electricity use during the school year, and 100 percent during the summer.

We’re guessing there are thousands of school districts in the U.S. which could be doing the same thing. And we’re betting that after learning about Milpitas United – there are few better news amplification outlets than the New York Times – many of these districts will climb aboard the growing solar carport and solar-powered EV charging station express.

Sun’s up America (and world)! Got a solar carport to soak it up?


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