A parking lot solar canopy installed by Blue Oak Energy. [Photo Credit: Blue Oak Energy -- https://www.blueoakenergy.com/solar-carports]

5 reasons parking lot solar canopies just may be the best form of solar

An RBI Solar-built parking lot solar canopy. [Photo Credit: RBI Solar — https://www.rbisolar.com/]
editor's blog iconOne of the most over-looked forms of solar — one that almost inevitably fails to generate any meaningful media coverage in major as well as in, rather surprisingly,  environmental media = solar canopy parking lot solar.

It never ceases to amaze me how little news coverage parking lot solar generates. For instance, it is not discussed at all in this brand new New York Times lead story, “More power lines or rooftop solar?” that focuses on the battles playing out over long-distance, giant solar-farm-oriented solar vs. local rooftop solar — I am a HUGE supporter of as much of the latter as possible, by the way, for a variety of reasons, most notably the ways in which local rooftop solar empowers individuals and localizes power production.

Parking lot solar totally rocks, and, in my opinion, rocks more than possibly any other form of solar with the possible exception of the solar on my own garage’s roof ;-).

Here are 5 of reasons parking lot solar rocks ==>

    1. A solar canopy installed by Green State Power at Duke University. [Photo Credit: Duke Facilities Management]
      Parking lot solar gets built in already environmentally degraded spaces. Unlike huge solar farms built in rural, and sometimes in environmentally sensitive, areas, parking lot solar goes up in places that have already been human-scaped. That is, parking lots have already contributed to environmental change, even degradation, and are already there. Parking lot solar goes up over those spaces and improves those spaces while not adding, in any significant way, to increased environmental destruction. Indeed, parking lot solar reduces environmental destruction. First, by virtue of the fact that it does not take more land space, but instead adds additional, positive use to already used space. Second, it reduces environmental impact in other ways, which get listed below, via their own, separate mention.
    2. Parking lot solar reduces (sub)urban heat island effect. Urban areas with little green space are far hotter than non-urban areas with lots of green space. A big reason for this is the ways in which roads/blacktop, including, of course, parking lots — hundreds of thousands of square miles of these in the United States alone, millions around the world — soak up heat from the sun. Parking lot solar canopies help reflect some of that sun heat. And, they produce local electricity while simultaneously reducing urban heat island effects. What could be better than that?
    3. Parking lot solar is local. Parking lot solar canopies produce electricity exactly in those places where it is most needed: In (sub)urban areas with large electricity draw. They don’t require big, long build-outs of transmission lines across vast distances and spaces.
    4. A solar canopy located in Framingham, Mass. installed by CSEnergy. [Photo Credit: CSEnergy — https://www.csenergy.com/project/adesa-4-23mw-carport-canopy-solar-array/]
      Parking lot solar is VERY local when paired with electric vehicle charging. Reason No. 4 is essentially a repeat of No. 3: Parking lot solar produces local electricity that is used locally. When you add EV charging to solar canopies and add EVs — ideally, lots and lots of them — you send the sun’s energy directly into the human machines parked directly under those canopies. Electricity production cannot get any more local, or direct, than that! And, what makes this all so incredibly beautiful, exciting, amazing, what makes solar canopy parking lot solar rock even that much more wonderful, is the fact that the solar canopies, which, in addition to producing electricity that is being fed to fuel the human machines parked on a piece of otherwise largely useless blacktop that is suddenly made much more useful via solar canopies + EV charging, simultaneously shield the human machines lined up underneath them from the heat of the sun, the wet of the rain, and the build-up of ice and snow.
    5. Parking lot solar protects vehicles from the sun, rain, snow and ice. How many people like stepping into a car that is 120F or hotter? How many love to scrape ice off windshields? Shove snow off of a car? Step out directly into pouring rain? Not many! Parking lot solar canopies protect cars from heating up, from being iced over, snowed under and also protect their owners from the rain.

    Given all of the advantages of parking lot solar canopies, it is, again, surprising, and, yes, also even dismaying to me, that their potential does not get more coverage in mainstream media and also does not garner nearly as much coverage as one would expect, or hope, in environmental media.

    Why not?

    It is difficult for me to think of a form of solar — including rooftop solar, which I hugely support — that does as many different things and has as many different and interlocking benefits as parking lot solar.

    Parking lot solar simply rocks! We need more of it, far more of it, don’t you think?

  1. Indeed, 10 years ago, former SolarChargedDriving.Com intern Anna Dreiling calculated just how much blacktop solar space we have in the United States — https://solarchargeddriving.com/2011/12/10/plenty-of-rooftop-blacktop-space-for-pv-in-us/. There is so much potential, so much!

    A Tesla Supercharger station with a solar canopy in Las Vegas.