Solar Canopies in Parking Lots5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
“Depending, of course, on the array size, solar canopies in parking lots can generate a lot of power. For instance, one large solar carport installation at Rutgers University is 28 acres in size and produces 8 megawatts of power, enough energy to power 1,000 homes.”The Washington Post, 2015
When The Washington Post reported this back in 2015, solar power accounted for less than 2% of the total power supply, and parking operators were gradually waking up to the benefits of solar canopies in parking lots.
In 2012, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted research in which some shocking data was revealed – 35 to 50% of a typical city was just pavement, and of those pavements, nearly 40% were exposed parking lots. The findings confirmed the environmentally damaging energy cycle that existed in most cities. No wonder cities were transforming into urban heat islands.
What was even worse was that all this heat generated could otherwise be used to produce electricity locally. That’s when more and more solar canopies made their comeback, this time, over parking lots.
Overhead Canopies and Urban Parking Lots: A Perfect Union?
Yes! But only for big commercial, industrial, and public establishments, given the fact that solar canopies are the most expensive type of systems to build. However, one cannot deny that the rationale for needing a solar canopy parking lot stems from the rationale of requiring the parking lot itself.
Just like new buildings raise the demand for parking spaces, they also increase the demand for electricity, especially during peak hours. What if the air-conditioners overload the system and result in severe power outages during scorching summer months? It seems reasonable to have a handy source of energy supply to offset that risk.
However, this is just one of the many benefits these sophisticated-looking structures offer. It would be sacrilege to forget about the twofold cooling effect of shielding for drivers, who, on parking their vehicles in a shaded environment, will naturally preserve their vehicle’s fuel economy, which can reduce by 25% upon heavy AC usage.
Plus, the parking pavement will also be cooler, which will result in cooling of the vicinity. Finally, now that the green revolution is big, businesses can have no better opportunity to stay at the forefront than empowering their buildings to reduce greenhouse emissions through solar canopy parking lots.
Read Also: Why We Need Solar Energy Parking Lots
So Who’s Leading the Solar Canopy Parking Lot Revolution?
A number of large establishments, stadiums, airports, etc. have sensed the need, looked through the benefits, and have developed solid solar canopy structures in their parking lots, as listed below –
FedEx Field Football Stadium – Hyattsville, MD
The official stadium for the Washington Redskins is perhaps the pioneer in this revolution, featuring a solar canopy of 8,000 panels over their parking lot that accommodates 841 vehicles. The solar canopy was installed to supply a portion of the stadium’s electricity on game days. It was estimated that the power generated by the solar panels would reduce energy consumption by 15%, but it was found that it saved the stadium 20% on utility costs.
Pointe Monterey Business Park – Palm Desert, California
Given the location of a blistering desert, it makes perfect sense that the Pointe Monterey Business Park became one of the early adopters of the cantilever canopy that keeps over 90 parked vehicles cool even during the hottest times of the year when the temperature reaches above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cochin International Airport – Kochi, India
The Cochin International Airport, the first to be run entirely on solar power, received another feather to its solar cap back in 2017 when 8,500 solar panels were installed over a parking lot that could accommodate 14,000 vehicles at a time. This considerable investment has helped the airport meet substantial electricity requirements.
Denver International Airport – Colorado, USA
The largest employer of Colorado, the Denver International Airport, features a parking lot of 800 slots, with 609 of them sporting solar panels overhead. This was an attempt to move closer to becoming a smart city. The panels generate a total of 1.6 megawatts of power, sufficient to run nearly 262 homes.
Orlando’s Advent Health Hospital – Florida, USA
With the aim of enhancing environmental sustainability in the healthcare system of Central Florida, the AdventHealth Hospital of Orlando has solar panels sitting on top of the McRae parking garage. This project has been the largest solar project in the city of Orlando, and by generating 850 KW of power, the solar canopy is saving the organization nearly $4.6 million in energy costs.
Having discussed the key parking lots that have solar canopies installed, it is important for developers to remember that these trellises are not meant for every location or land use.
Having a solar canopy in a city that hardly experiences the balmy days of summer or a parking lot that sits comfortably amidst towering buildings that block the sun are illogical choices. Fairly large parking lots in areas like Miami that experience long and sometimes intolerable summers are ideal candidates for solar canopies.
Finally, let’s talk about another often neglected benefit of the solar panels for asphalt-rich cities – they transform bland and uniformly undecorated parking lots into more aesthetically appealing modern spaces. So, form with function? Yes, that’s what a solar canopy parking lot is all about!