Summer means swimming pools and hot dogs and… boiling hot cars. Raise your hand if you’ve recently almost burnt your hand on your steering wheeling after your ride’s been baking in the sun.
A new idea, which will both protect your tootsies and help save the planet, could change all that. They’re called solar parking lots. The idea is to use the space above wide open parking lots to create solar farms. The farms would then do double duty as shade structures and energy collectors. And in the future, when a lot more people have plug-in electric cars, the structures could also be used to recharge car batteries.
The idea makes perfect sense, of course. And some companies, universities, shopping centers, and industrial lots are already starting to implement it. Google implemented one of the largest solar parking lots in the country back in 2007 as part of a wider plan to create a 1.6-megawatt solar system to power about 30 percent of the company’s Mountain View, California headquarters. Overhanging parking shade structures accounted for a third of the panels in that system.
The systems are expensive to install, especially since you don’t only have to pay for the photovoltaic panels, but often you have to build the structures themselves. Proponents, though, say they’ll more than pay for themselves over the long haul. California State University at Fresno, for example, says its 1.1-megawatt system will knock $13 million off the university’s utility costs over its 30-year lifespan.